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Pennsylvania Primary Day: A Primer

One of the fun things about living in Philadelphia is that elections here are always hard-fought, and often have a national impact.

And today’s Democratic primary is no exception.

What can I tell you from being on the ground here in Philly? First, there is no shortage of Penn students for Obama. They are everywhere.

And second, in an unscientific poll of my household, I can report receiving six reminders from Obama’s campaign to vote (three of which were personalized calls), and zero from the Clinton campaign. Initially I inferred that this told me something about the relative strength of the two campaigns. But then I thought harder about the data the two campaigns have.

My neighborhood is full of U. Penn. profs and others who have sipped more than their fair share of lattes — the type that have been very good to Obama in previous primaries. My guess is that this alone is enough of a marker that Obama’s team is desperate for folks on my street to vote, while Clinton would be just as happy if none of us could find the local polling station.

By the same token, our friends in the suburbs have likely been receiving reminders from Clinton, rather than Obama.

For those who are watching the count tonight, two of my superstar M.B.A. students, Matt Vogel and Matt Lattman — political and statistics gurus, respectively — have put together a very nice spreadsheet to help you track the numbers as they come in.

Their complaint with the usual television talking heads is that the usual discussion of aggregate vote shares is uninformative. For instance, a 60 percent vote share for Obama from the suburbs would be great news for him, but a 60 percent vote share from Philadelphia would be disastrous.

Continuing with this sort of analysis requires one to form a very careful baseline against which to assess county-level vote shares. And so my Matt and Matt have prepared two very useful baselines:

1) What vote shares would be expected for Clinton or Obama on the basis of the correlation between their county-level outcomes in Ohio and the age, percent black, percent renter, percent college grad, and income of county residents?

2) What vote shares were earned by Ed Rendell and Bob Casey in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary? Expect Obama to do well in those places that Rendell succeeded, and Clinton’s electoral map to follow that of Bob Casey.

For the true stat-nerds and political junkies amongst us, you can download their spreadsheet here. I know I’ll have my laptop perched precariously on the couch tonight as I follow the count.