That’s it for tonight gang — check back tomorrow, as always, for the latest analysis in The Note…
11:03 pm ET: A lot of talk from Obama tonight reaching back 14 months, to his campaign launch. He’s come a long way since then — and he’s still the frontrunner tonight. But there’s just a hint that this race could be interesting again yet….
10:57 pm ET: Obama’s tweak at Clinton: "We can be a party that thinks the only way to look tough on national security is to talk, and act, and vote like George Bush and John McCain. We can use fear as a tactic — the threat of terrorism to scare up votes."
10:51: How about those Abercrombie & Fitch shirts directly behind Obama? Can’t buy that kind of publicity! (Unless they did.) That’s three shirts in a row in prime location. Incredible.
10:48 pm ET: Obama quickly labels Clinton’s win a "victory." Seeks to be gracious. Then mentions that people thought he’d be blown out. (Who are those people?)
10:47 pm ET: Obama says he married up — would that the end of the Bush administration mean the end of that joke…
10:42 pm ET: Jason and others — I do know the situation in Florida and Michigan, of course. I’m just positing the Clinton argument, not endorsing the idea of counting them in the popular vote — obviously, including Florida and Michigan is tossing an orange and a mitten in with the apples. Just in the sense of actual votes, though, the numbers are the numbers.
10:26 pm ET: A potential watershed moment: With Pennsylvania results, Clinton just overtook Obama in the overall popular vote — if you include Florida and Michigan. That is a very big if, particularly when it comes to Michigan, but this is a major moment in the argument Clinton is making to the superdelegates. And if there were any question about whether Clinton will hang on to the end, that should answer it.
It is now, with 67% of PA precincts reporting, Clinton: 14,547,729; Obama: 14,516,766.
Dig at Obama — question isn’t whether "we can," but whether "we will."
10:23 pm ET: "The tide is turning," Clinton says. Watch for currents among those swimming superdelegates.
10:21 pm ET: Mentioning her opponent gets scattered boos — and of course, the shout-out for the Website — need to refill those coffers.
10:17 pm ET: This is in-charge Clinton we’re hearing from tonight. A measured tone — not overly triumphant, like she knows this race is not even close to over. "We are in many ways all on this journey together," she said.
10:15 pm ET: No more Bruce — it’s Tom Petty — "won’t back down" — in Clinton’s intro tonight. And Bill is behind her very, very briefly.
9:48 pm ET: We’re hearing that Sen. Clinton is about 15 minutes away. I’d look for her to be gracious in victory — but rather sharp in the lessons she’s drawing from this. It’s been a while since she had a chance for a straight-ahead victory speech — she’ll relish it, rightly.
9:42 pm ET: From ABC’s Eloise Harper, traveling with the Clinton campaign: "Lots of smiling happy staffers wandering around. Huge rousing cheer when CNN which was blaring in the room – announced for Clinton."
That’s going to be the photo of the night, surely.
9:36 pm ET: From a Republican friend: "I notice that self-ID’d crossover Republican vote is way down in PA (only 4%). By comparison, OH & TX both had 9%, which is pretty typical â- if not low — for every primary until PA."
Wonder what Republicans did tonight?
9:20 pm ET: If you want to see the show first-hand — travel to Indiana. That’s going to be the next showdown, no doubt.
9:09 pm ET: It will depend on the definition of "close" — and remember we won’t get Philly numbers until late. Early returns are really good for her — and every point is that much doubt she can place in the minds of the super-Ds.
8:55 PM ET: Clearly Clinton lives on for another day — or at least another two weeks, I should say. As attention turns to the margin, I wonder to what extent the media will be able to communicate any sense of a split decision — or a less-than-clear decision. Sen. Clinton wins — she gets the big speech and the big photo in the papers. If she only wins by five — how does that play? Not the day one story — but very possibly the story on day two, three, four, and five.
8:52 pm ET: ABC PROJECTS THAT PENNSYLVANIA WILL GO FOR CLINTON.
8:41 pm ET: Don’t forget to stay up to date with the Real Time Results on ABCNEWS.com.
8:24 pm ET: I wouldn’t expect to see significant results until the 9 pm hour — and the most densely populated part of the state, the Philadelphia area, will probably be the last to come in.
ABC’s Russell Goldman just got off the phone with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office in Pennsylvania: "No major problems reported."
8:17 pm ET: Kevin — many smart people are puzzling over the exit polls, indeed. Much of it does not compute. Internally, at the Clinton and Obama campaigns, nobody I’ve been in touch with has been remotely optimistic. So the short answer is, we don’t know what will happen. But as I noted, if it’s close, that could be the big story.
8:14 pm ET: Indeed no network calls at 8 pm poll closing time. It’s a long time before we know the margin, naturally, but the longer this night goes, the more difficult it’s going to be for Sen. Clinton to declare a resounding victory. An interesting side story tonight will be who speaks first — with Sen. Obama in transit at the moment, it’s likely to be Clinton who gets first crack — unusual position for the victor to be in.
7:58 pm ET: Jerome — yes, they always move on, but the one who expects to win typically spends a few more hours on the ground — to thank supporters and for a victory party. Sen. Clinton will be in Philadelphia tonight. Sen. Obama will be in Indiana. What does that say about what they expect?
7:55 pm ET: Hope everyone is settling in for an interesting evening — it doesn’t look like ABC or the other networks will be able to call this one at poll closing time.
Quick exercise in myth-busting: The Obama campaign DID try to win in Pennsylvania. And the Clinton campaign DOES need to win convincingly.
7:14 pm ET: From ABC’s Sunlen Miller, covering the Obama campaign: "Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod and Communications Director, Robert Gibbs just came out of the Philadelphia Sheraton wearing "Stop the Drama, Vote Obama" t-shirts. The t-shirts were purchased off a street vendor, and were written in large blue and black letters."
"Obama is currently en route to the Philadelphia airport and will fly to Evansville, Indiana for a rally with John Mellencamp. Obama is wheels down in Indiana at 9:45 EST. The rally starts at 10:30 EST."
I do find it interesting that he is doing the Clinton maneuver of skipping ahead to the next state as (expected) bad news flows in in the last-voting state.
6:55 pm ET: The general word in political circles, it I may sum up: Don’t believe the exit polls. Everybody’s being cautious at the moment, best I can tell. Of course, there’s still an hour left of voting — and many, many hours to spin.
6:22 pm ET: It does appear that Clinton is paying more of a price for the negative turn than Obama. In PA, according to the preliminary numbers, 67 percent say Clinton attacked Obama unfairly, up from 52 percent in all previous primaries. Only 49 percent think Obama unfairly attacked Clinton (up from 38 percent). This feeds the argument of both candidates being diminished by this race.
6:08 pm ET: Lori asks below about the Great Divide — which is well reflected in the comments below. Will it heal? My sense is — it will and it won’t. That is to say, most Democrats will still vote Democratic, and most Clinton supporters will wind up supporting Obama, as would most Obama supporters eventually support Clinton. BUT I also think that every passing day weakens whoever the Democratic nominee will be; the charges and accusations being tossed about do have a corrosive cumulative impact. There are more reasons every day for Democrats (and Republicans and independents) to find reasons not to like Obama and Clinton. And John McCain is particularly well-positioned to pick up independents.
So yes, I think the Democrats are past the point where it can be reasonably argued that an extended campaign is good for the party’s November prospects.
6:02 pm ET: With the preliminary exit poll numbers out, a few points that strike me off the bat. First of – people made up their minds early. Per ABC polling director Gary Langer, "nearly eight in 10 Pennsylvania voters made up their minds at least a week ago, and six in 10 decided on their candidate more than a month ago â- a higher number of early deciders than the norm in Democratic primaries to date." That suggests that all of these little stories we’ve obsessed over in recent days may not have mattered — for better, worse, or indifferent.
Democrats are sick of the tone of this campaign — with two-thirds of voters blaming Clinton more than Obama for the negative turn.
And watch for this to be THE story coming out of the evening, if it’s close: More than half of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania (54 percent) expect Obama to be the nominee, REGARDLESS of what happens in the Keystone State. Of that group, roughly eight in 10 voted for Obama; one would assume this includes people who would have been with Obama even without his momentum. But what if it’s more than that? If the inevitability storyline is sticking, is there bounty in that for Obama? Enough to bring him a couple points in PA?
5:10 pm ET: A word on Bill Clinton — another election day where he’s dominating the news, with him saying that the Obama campaign played the "race card" against him, and then denying that he said it. Truly remarkable — it’s hard to argue that he’s been a net-positive for the Clinton campaign at this point. Do you think his actions have cost her votes?
Rick Klein here from ABC’s The Note. I’ll be live-blogging tonight as the returns roll in in Pennsylvania, with the latest from the exit polls and our ABC reporters in the field.
First — a word on the expectations game. Of course, both sides try to downplay what needs to be accomplished, and dueling memos speak to that this afternoon.
From the Obama campaign: "The bottom line is that if Senator Clinton is going to make meaningful inroads in this race for delegates, she will need a huge margin in Pennsylvania. Tonightâs outcome is unlikely to change the dynamic of this lengthy primary."
From the Clinton campaign: "After the Obama campaignâs ‘go-for-broke’ Pennsylvania strategy, after their avalanche of negative ads, negative mailers and negative attacks against Sen. Clinton, after their record-breaking spending in the state, a fundamental question must be asked: Why shouldn’t Sen. OBAMA win?"
That’s a fair question from Camp Clinton — and my colleague Jake Tapper blogs on that very subject this afternoon. Nowhere is it written that Obama cannot win Pennsylvania, and he’s certainly spent enough money there to signal a desire to win. The other argument from the Clinton campaign is also correct — neither candidate can win without superdelegates, and the fact is that superdelegates could end the race (and could have done so weeks ago) if they were either completely comfortable with Obama, or completely convinced that he will be the nominee. That hasn’t happened, for whatever reason.
But we’re not at a stage in the campaign where all wins are created equal. Clinton trails by 145 delegates, with only 10 contests left, and she will NOT make up that gap via pledged delegates, even under the most optimistic scenarios for her campaign. That means what she needs to do is more difficult than what Obama needs to do: She needs to give superdelegates serious pause about Obama if she has any hope of turning a critical mass in her direction. The way to do that tonight is with a resounding victory that reinforces his demographic weaknesses, particularly with white, working-class voters.
This is not fair to Sen. Clinton in a critical sense: To repeat, the bar IS higher for her tonight. But that’s what happens when your opponent wins the early rounds. That makes this evening like the RPI in college football: Running up the score matters.
What constitutes a convincing victory? Conventional wisdowm says double digits. 15-plus and things look much different tomorrow. Less than five (or an Obama victory) and there’s more pressure on Clinton to bow out. It’s the range of 6-10 that gets fun. In the end, it doesn’t matter what I say or you say — only what the superdelegates perceive.
What do you think? What does Sen. Clinton need to achieve tonight?