Saturday, March 15, 2008

Pennsylvania

In the Clinton campaign's continuous quest to move the goalposts, they have trotted out a new ante based on Pennsylvania:


From a March 13 Press Release

Did You Know? The path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue goes through Pennsylvania. No Democrat has won the presidency without winning Pennsylvania since 1948. No candidate has won the Democratic nomination without winning Pennsylvania since 1972.
Hillary Clinton has been polling fairly well in Pennsylvania. Publicizing these numbers seems to imply that Pennsylvania has some magical ability to predict the fate of Democrats. This can be useful since it is to Hillary's benefit to shift attention away from the fact that she is behind in delegates, states won and the popular vote. The implied message here is pretty clear:
If Hillary wins the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, then history shows that she should be the Democratic party nominee, because winning PA equals winning in November.
Let's take a look at this data to see if it really makes sense.
First part first: "No Democrat has won the presidency without winning Pennsylvania since 1948."
This is true if you interpret "winning Pennsylvania" to mean in the primary election. (In 1948, Harry Truman won the presidency but lost Pennsylvania in the general election to Thomas Dewey.)
So if that much is true, what else is true?
  • Since 1972, there are five instances where the Democrat who won the Pennsylvania primary went on to lose in the general election anyway.
So if Hillary's claim is true six times (1948, 1960, 1964, 1976, 1992, 1996), and the opposite is true five times (1956, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004), what is the point? Seems like Pennsylvania isn't so magical after all.
And now for that curious last sentence: "No candidate has won the Democratic nomination without winning Pennsylvania since 1972."
There are two ways to interpret "winning Pennsylvania": Based on the primary or general election.
  • No candidate has won the Democratic nomination since 1972 without first winning the Democratic Primary in Pennsylvania. This is actually a false. Jimmy Carter won the Democratic nomination in 1980 - but he lost in the Pennsylvania primary to Ted Kennedy.

  • Well, since the first interpretation was false, the Clinton campaign must have meant "winning Pennsylvania" to mean in the general election. But what does that even mean? Are they implying some sort of reverse causation? If this is the proper reading, then it would mean "Since 1972, no person can be the Democratic nominee if they do not win Pennsylvania in the (future) general election." Let's look and see if 1972 happens to be the last year that a Democratic candidate won the party nomination but didn't win Pennsylvania in the general election ... nope. 1988. Michael Dukakis was the nominee, and he lost in Pennsylvania in the general election to George H. W. Bush.
Can anyone provide an way to parse this sentence that such that it is true? I really want to believe that the Clinton campaign isn't flat out lying here.
We deserve better. Out of three sentences: one blanket statement, on half-truth, one lie. Thanks Hillary.

1 comment:

  1. i sent off my voter registration card in the mail yesterday

    ReplyDelete