For Democrats in general, and for Obama in particular, it may be fitting that the decisive battle will be waged in Pennsylvania. For one thing, despite their many similarities and shared borders, Pennsylvania is not Ohio. The Keystone state is more Democratic and may be entitled to a greater say in who the Democratic nominee should be.
Pennsylvania has been has been trending Democratic for almost two decades. It has voted for the Democratic nominee in the last four presidential elections, but not since 1976 have Democratic voters in Pennsylvania had a decisive voice in choosing the party nomination.
“There’s no template for it in the state,” U. S. Sen. Bob Casey told the Philadelphia Inquirer on Tuesday. “We’ve never had two candidates come to Pennsylvania so evenly matched.”
So I predict an outbreak of sports metaphors that will spread from Erie in the west to Philadelphia in the East: the campaigns will go into overtime; they will unveil their short games; their will throw long balls; they will attempt Hail Mary passes; they will try to steal home, and of course, both sides will be looking for the knockout punch.
For Obama, black voters in Philadelphia will be crucial. But he will face obstacles there. The current, very popular, African American mayor, Michael Nutter, is a Clinton supporter. The current governor, and former Philadelphia mayor, Edward Rendell is also with Clinton.
But black voters have consistently defied leadership endorsements of Clinton in this campaign. Their choice in Philadelphia could amount, for each candidate, to the difference between winning and losing.
In 2000, when Al Gone won the state’s 23 electoral votes, he beat George W. Bush by 204, 840 votes, a feat only accomplished because he had piled up a 348,000 vote margin in Philadelphia. In 2004, the story line was the same, Bush lost Pennsylvania by a mere 144,000 votes, and came out of Philadelphia down 412,000 votes.
For Obama, a similar strategy may apply; he needs to open up a big enough margin in the city, to cushion his losses to Clinton elsewhere. Short of that, we’ll find ourselves in Denver in August still trying to sort out something we thought would be over in February.
Terence Samuel is deputy editor of The Root .