By Paul West
Newspaper readers and network TV viewers awoke this morning to word of Hillary Clinton's 10-percentage point victory in Pennsylvania. An obsession with her precise margin, part of the buildup by her campaign and the news media, dominated election-night coverage and was regarded as an important indicator of her resilience and Barack Obama's failure to close the sale.
Before the votes were counted in Pennsylvania, a Clinton victory in the mid single digits would be seen as good, not great, some said. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, her leading supporter in the state, said that high single digits would be significant. But double digits was something else. A 10-point win would be "extraordinary," said Rendell.
Getting to double digits would match her primary victory in next-door Ohio last month, which she won by 10 points, and signal Obama's inability to make substantial progress despite heavy spending and six weeks of in-person campaigning.
It also sounds more impressive.
Based on nearly complete returns, however, it doesn't appear that Clinton quite got there. According to the latest Associated Press tally, with less than one percent of precincts yet to be counted (50 of 9,218 precincts), Clinton is leading Obama by 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent. That works out to a winning margin of 9.4 percent.
The elections division of the Pennsylvania Secretary of State's office, which also has more than 99 percent of the districts in (9,212 of 9,264) gives Clinton 54.7 percent and Obama 45.3 percent, a Clinton advantage of 9.2 percent.
Either way, that's good, but not double-digits. (For the record, she won Ohio by 10.4 points.)
Now, parsing fractions of a percentage point in Pennsylvania is nothing compared to the debate over the popular vote tally, which is just getting under way and could easily run for another six weeks or more. Already this morning, Clinton is arguing that she has taken the lead in total popular votes, a boast that may not pass the straight-face test among experienced Democratic politicians.