Blogging the Indiana and North Carolina primaries by The Note’s Rick Klein

May 6, 2008 10:37pm

11:03 pm ET: That’s it for tonight — check out The Note for full coverage and analysis tomorrow morning, as always. Thanks for reading and commenting…

10:52 pm ET: Bottom line: This is a devastating day for Hillary Clinton. Even if she pulls out Indiana, she will have done so barely. She lost the bigger state tonight, badly. She’ll wind up losing ground in the delegate count and the popular vote. Her argument against Barack Obama suffered a setback. This could trigger money woes, and could mean problems with the superdelegates. It’s getting late, and Sen. Clinton is seeing her path narrow.

10:50 pm ET: This speech — not what I expected. If you’re looking for the first signs of a way out, we may have found them tonight in these words she’s offering. Lots of talk of her willingness to work for the Democratic nominee, far more than talk of why she should be the nominee. She talks of Chelsea and Bill’s work in the past tense, even.

10:46 pm ET: A hint of healing to come? "We are all on the same team." "No matter what happens, I will work for the Democratic nominee, because we must win in November."

These could be the most important lines of the night.

10:45 pm ET: To me, at least, Sen. Clinton’s body language tells the story — even if you don’t look at the glum expression on Bill’s face. Tonight, she needed a big win in a big state — and she’s winding up with a small win, while Sen. Obama won a bigger state.

10:39 pm ET: "It’s full-speed onto the White House," Clinton says — with Bill and Chelsea behind her. (Why doesn’t it feel like full speed right at this moment?) Something tells me the Clinton campaign isn’t going to be able to get the money spigot turned on for them again.

10:32 pm ET: Sen. Clinton’s arrival is, finally, imminent. Sen. Evan Bayh: "It’s not tied anymore." Hmmm — a statement that’s maybe 2 1/2 months too late.

10:16 pm ET: One reason Clinton may not be confident at this moment: Not a single vote has been tallied out of Lake County, where Gary, Ind., is — what’s expected to be the biggest Obama county in the state, per ABC’s Karen Travers.

10:10 pm ET: ABC’s Kate Snow, with the Clinton campaign in Indianapolis, reports that senior Clinton aides appear to have disappeared from the ballroom — and the campaign isn’t saying if Clinton is even in the hotel at the moment. Doesn’t seem like a confident shop at this moment.

9:58 pm ET: It does look like, if Clinton wins in Indiana, it’s going to be closer than is comfortable. This will press the Clinton spin machine into overdrive — at a certain point, if these Democratic doubts are as real as they say they are, they’re going to have to prove it, not just say it.

9:50 pm ET: Those margins continue to shrink in Indiana… And we still wait for Sen. Clinton to appear.

9:34 pm ET: Core of the speech: Obama: "Don’t ever forget that we have a choice in this country – that we can choose not to be divided; that we can choose not to be afraid; that we can still choose this moment to finally come together and solve the problems we’ve talked about all those other years in all those other elections."

9:31 pm ET: ABC contributor Matthew Dowd offers this quick take: "Big night for Barack. Showed he can come back from advertisity and struggle and win. Needed to prove he could do that. Winning early in night is big to send message that it’s time to start wrapping this up."

9:25 pm ET: Obama takes on McCain — "out of touch with these core values." Democratic candy, in this sour season.

9:19 pm ET: ABC’s Sunlen Miller points out that the podium is oddly high tonight. Obama looks short. He’s not.

9:14 pm ET: "There were those who were saying that North Carolina would be a game-changer in this election," Obama said. "But today, North Carolina decided that the only game that needs changing is the one in Washington, DC."

One of "those," by the way, was Bill Clinton.

And Obama just essentially conceded Indiana to Clinton. We’re not there yet at ABC, for the record. 

9:12 pm ET: Check out Obama with the Southern twang…

9:02 pm ET: Obama about to seize some prime-time hours by taking the stage in Raleigh, N.C. Word from Obamaland is like it’s been for weeks now: The math is the math. Not a great rallying cry — but at this stage in the campaign, they may not need more than that.

8:38 pm ET: No ABC projection yet in Indiana — and ABC’s Karen Travers reports on one reason why. Several key counties in Indiana — including Lake, Monroe, Porter, and St. Joseph — have not reported any returns yet. Travers: "These counties are likely to be areas where Barack Obama will do well, based on demographics and geography, but clearly Hillary Clinton continues to build a solid vote lead with 49 precincts reporting."

8:20 pm ET: While we’re having fun with old quotes, the Clinton campaign reminds us of this one from Obama, from the wake of the Pennsylvania primary: Indiana, Obama said, "may end up being the tiebreaker." There’s one Obamaland would rather forget.

7:55 pm ET: So granted, North Carolina was a state that favored Sen. Obama from the start. But do you think it hurts her argument to superdelegates? She has/had some momentum going, perhaps against all odds this late in the race. This will make the Indiana results, and the exit polls, more important for Clinton, to understate it.

7:41 pm ET: North Carolina numbers are starting to come in.

7:38 pm ET: An Obama supporter points out this, for flashback purposes, from February on ABC’s "Good Morning America." Hillary Clinton: "This race is very close, it’s very contested. I’ve won some, he’s won some. Each of us has to get to 2025 delegates."

Remember that number? Camp Clinton wishes it didn’t.

7:30 pm ET: ABC PROJECTS NORTH CAROLINA FOR OBAMA. There goes Clinton’s hopes for a sweep — as well as her hopes of a big delegate pickup tonight. This basically ensures at least a delegate tie for the night — and now the pressure is on Clinton to win her "must-win," in Indiana.

You can here the sighs at Obama’s HQ in Chicago. It’s been a while since he had a big victory.

7:22 pm ET: As we wait for results to roll in, here’s a fun way to kill some time: Make your own electoral matchups, with ABCNews.com’s new electoral college calculator.

6:59 pm ET: Don’t forget to stay up-to-date with Real Time Results at ABCNews.com.

6:44 pm ET: Give the Clintons points for honesty: They are actively trying to change mathematical perceptions. The Clinton campaign just e-mailed out a Politico story that quotes top Clinton campaign official Harold Ickes thusly: "The Obama people keep talking about 2,025, which implies they don’t intend to seat Florida and Michigan," Ickes said. "We think that’s a mistake on the part of the party – it’s foolish."

It’s also the rules as the currently stand, and as Ickes himself voted to enshrine. Doesn’t speak well for Camp Clinton’s confidence this evening — though to be fair, even a sweep tonight wouldn’t do much for the delegate count, as they well know.

6:28 pm ET: Gotta love time zones. Results rolling in from Indiana — though polls are still open in portions of the state for another half hour.

6:08 pm ET: Other tidbits from the preliminary exits — black voters are a sizeable, but not overwhelming, share of the North Carolina electorate. And about one in 10 Indiana voters were Republicans — how many of them part of Limbaugh’s "chaos" army, we do not know.

6:03: ABC Polling Director Gary Langer offers this glimpse from the exit polls, on the impact of Wright: "Preliminary exit poll results indicate that just under half of Democratic primary voters in Indiana and North Carolina alike call the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright an important factor in their vote, a potential wildcard in the outcome of these two contests."

That’s a big number to call it an "important factor" — have to think that costs Obama a few points. But then again, early deciders make up a big portion of the electorate.

5:04 pm ET: As we track the impact of the new Indiana voter ID law, nuns were turned away at the polls today by fellow nuns. Nuns.

4:30 pm ET: Eloise Harper, who covers the Clinton campaign for ABC, flags this item from the Clinton pool report today. Clinton was asked by a Terry Haute, Ind., TV station whether he’d offer Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind., a spot on the ticket: "If you don’t tell anybody, because it’s presumptuous of me to answer that question, he’s on my short list for anything. I’ve known him for 20 years, he’s been a superb governor and senator."

Not your typical non-answer answer to a question like that. It does make me curious about the power of endorsements. Gov. Ted Strickland was huge for Clinton in Ohio, Gov. Ed Rendell played a big role for her in Pennsylvania, and now comes Bayh in Indiana. With an answer like this, Clinton clearly knows how important Bayh can be for her.

—-

Rick Klein here from ABC’s The Note. I’ll be blogging tonight as election results roll in from Indiana and North Carolina, with the latest from the exit polls and ABC’s reporters in the field.

Some initial thoughts: Keep an eye on northwest Indiana. That’s the Chicago media market, where about a quarter of the state’s Democrats live. That means they are most intimately familiar with Barack Obama — and that they’ve been exposed to crazy volumes of Jeremiah Wright coverage over the past two weeks. This pocket of the state could be a key indicator as to the damage the Wright affair has inflicted on Obama, and if Clinton runs close there, she should be fine in Indiana.

Also — in the same vein of looking for weaknesses in Obama’s coalition — aside from tracking Obama’s standing among white, working-class voters, the campaigns will be watching black turnout in North Carolina. Predictions going into the day put the African-American vote as high as 40 percent of the Democratic electorate — and if that number is reached or exceeded, Obama should be fine in his must-win state. If not, his campaign will have to explain why it isn’t evidence that he’s losing support.

All of that said, what would the expected split mean? My read is that a tie goes to the frontrunner — particularly if more contests are in the books with Obama’s delegate lead intact. Hillary Clinton needs voters to help her make her case to superdelegates, and she’s running out of contests. That said, keeping the process alive (that is, Obama missing another opportunity to put her away) buys Clinton time to make her argument.

What do you think?

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