2008 Pennsylvania Democratic primary

The 2008 Democratic primary in Pennsylvania was held on April 22 by the Pennsylvania Department of State in which voters chose their preference for the Democratic Party's candidate for the 2008 U.S. Presidential election. Voters also chose the Pennsylvania Democratic Party's candidates for various state and local offices. The selected candidates will be placed on the ballot of the 2008 General Election on November 4. The Democratic primary was part of a General Primary that also included the 2008 Pennsylvania Republican primary.

Pennsylvania Democratic primary, 2008

← 2004 April 22, 2008 (2008-04-22) 2016 →
  Hillary Rodham Clinton-cropped.jpg Obama portrait crop.jpg
Candidate Hillary Clinton Barack Obama
Home state New York Illinois
Delegate count 85 73
Popular vote 1,273,764 1,059,698
Percentage 54.59% 45.41%

Pennsylvania Primary 2008.PNG
Pennsylvania Democratic primary county map.

The Democratic primary was open to registered Democrats only. Polls opened at 7am and closed at 8pm. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the only candidates on the ballot for President of the United States.[1] The primary was considered to be a "must win" for Clinton, who defeated Obama, but by a smaller margin than hoped for.

Delegate breakdownEdit

The Pennsylvania Democratic Party sent a total of 187 delegates to the 2008 Democratic National Convention. Of those delegates, 158 were pledged, and 29 were unpledged. All of the 158 pledged delegates were allocated (pledged) to vote for a particular candidate at the National Convention according to the results of the Pennsylvania Presidential Primary. The 29 unpledged delegates were popularly called "superdelegates" because their vote represented their personal decisions, whereas the regular delegates' votes represented the collective decision of many voters. The superdelegates were free to vote for any candidate at the National Convention and were selected by the Pennsylvania Democratic Party's officials.[2][3]

The 158 pledged delegates were further divided into 103 district delegates and 55 statewide delegates. The 103 district delegates were divided among Pennsylvania's 19 Congressional Districts and were allocated to the presidential candidates based on the primary results in each district. The 55 statewide delegates were divided into 35 at-large delegates and 20 Party Leaders and Elected Officials (abbreviated PLEOs). They were allocated to the presidential candidates based on the preference of the delegates at the State Committee meeting on June 7.[2][3]

Of the 29 unpledged delegates, 26 were selected in advance and 3 were selected at the State Committee meeting. The delegates selected in advance were 13 Democratic National Committee members, the 11 Democratic U.S. Representatives from Pennsylvania, Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Casey Jr., and Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.[2][3]

Importance of PennsylvaniaEdit

The primary was the first time since 1976 that Pennsylvania played a major role in a presidential nomination.[4]

Importance of Pennsylvania for ClintonEdit

Bill Clinton at a "Solutions for America" rally at the Henry Memorial Center at Washington & Jefferson College on March 11, 2008[5]

As the race continued to Pennsylvania, Indiana, and North Carolina, many observers had concluded that Clinton had little chance to overcome Obama's lead in pledged delegates.[6]

Former President Bill Clinton highlighted the importance of the state for the Clinton campaign saying on March 11 at an event in Western Pennsylvania that "If she wins a big, big victory in Pennsylvania, I think it'll give her a real big boost going into the next primaries... I think she's got to win a big victory in Pennsylvania. I think if she does, she can be nominated, but it's up to you."[7] This was a repetition of his tactic before March 4, warning supporters that his wife might not be able to continue if she did not win Ohio and Texas.[8] Hillary Clinton emphasized that Pennsylvania was something of a home state for her, as her father came from Scranton, Pennsylvania, she and her brothers were christened there and had vacationed near there each summer, and her brothers still maintained the family cottage near there.[9]

Importance of Pennsylvania to ObamaEdit

On March 18, 2008 Barack Obama chose Philadelphia as the site to deliver his much-anticipated "A More Perfect Union" speech dealing with the race and the controversy surrounding his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.


Obama's "Road to Change" Bus TourEdit

Obama speaking at a Rally in Pittsburgh to kick off his statewide bus tour.

Obama started a 6-day "Road to Change" bus tour across Pennsylvania, with stops in Pittsburgh, Johnstown, Altoona, State College, Harrisburg

On March 28, Obama started the bus tour with a rally in Pittsburgh's Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall.[10] Obama was introduced and endorsed by Senator Bob Casey Jr., who had indicated earlier that he would remain neutral in the democratic primary.[11]

Casey traveled to Florida over the Easter holiday, where he said rain forced him to stay inside and think about the election. Obama's ability to "transcend" the racial divide and his ability to engage younger voters proved decisive to his decision. According to sources, Casey's four daughters lobbied their dad to endorse Obama.[12]

On March 29, the Obama bus tour stopped at the Pleasant Valley Recreation Center in Altoona, where he famously bowled a 37.[13] Both Obama and Senator Casey (who rolled a score of 71) lost to local homemaker Roxanne Hart, who rolled a score of 82.[14] On April Fool's Day, Senator Clinton jokingly challenged Obama to a "bowl-off," with the winner taking all the delegates.[15]


On April 11, 2008, The Huffington Post blogger Mayhill Fowler, a self-admitted Barack Obama supporter, reported that during an April 6 "closed press" fundraising event in San Francisco, California, Obama recounted the obstacles facing his campaign in the Pennsylvania primary as it pertained to rural, white voters.[16] Fowler wrote that during the speech, Obama said the following:

You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them... And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Fowler later posted a three-minute, 30-second audio snippet confirming the accuracy of the remark. Senators Clinton and John McCain both issued statements condemning the remarks.[17] Obama later defended his comments, but conceded: "I didn't say it as well as I should have."[18] However, he also added: "I said something that everybody knows is true."[19] Obama had addressed similar themes of guns, religion, and economics in 2004 during an interview with Charlie Rose.[20]

Final weekEdit

On the last Friday before the primary, Senator Obama spoke on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to a crowd of more than 35,000, the largest audience yet drawn by either candidate during the campaign[citation needed]. The crowd was nearly twice what had been projected[21] and spilled over into nearby streets.[22] The next day, Obama conducted a whistle stop train tour from Philadelphia to Harrisburg, drawing a crowd of 6,000 at a stop in Wynnewood and 3,000 at a stop in Paoli. On Monday, Sen. Obama held the final events of his Pennsylvania campaign in Scranton, McKeesport and at the University of Pittsburgh's Petersen Events Center.[23]

The Saturday before the primary, Senator Clinton spoke in five Pennsylvania cities, including West Chester and York, Pennsylvania. More than 300 people showed up at the West Chester firehouse to hear the New York Senator speak.[24] At the Wilson high gymnasium in West Lawn, Pennsylvania, Clinton told several hundred more supporters: "The job of a leader is to bring people together to solve problems . . . to understand that sometimes we have to fight to get the political will and the votes to make that happen". On Monday, April 21, Senator Clinton along with husband Bill Clinton spoke to a crowd of 6,000 in Downtown Pittsburgh. Other events were held Monday in Scranton, Harrisburg, and Philadelphia.[25] Both candidates refused to participate in the political custom of street money.[26]


Public opinion polling from early January 2007 through mid-February 2008 consistently gave Hillary Clinton a double digit lead over Barack Obama.[27] By the beginning of April, polls of Pennsylvanians showed Obama trailing Clinton by an average of 5 points.[28] According to 2 polls taken one day before the primary, Hillary Clinton was leading Barack Obama by 49%-42% and 51%-41%. Other polls showed Clinton leading by an average of about 6%.[29]

Some superdelegates also announced their preferred candidates before the primary. As of April 30, 16 superdelegates had announced support for Senator Clinton and 5 had announced support for Senator Obama.[30]


Primary date: April 22, 2008

National pledged delegates determined: 158

Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary, 2008
Official Results[31]
Candidate Votes Percentage Estimated national delegates[3]
Hillary Clinton 1,273,764 54.59% 85
Barack Obama 1,059,698 45.41% 73
Totals 2,333,462 100.0% 158

In the end, Hillary Clinton won the primary by 9.28 percentage points, a wider margin than expected than recent polls suggested, but smaller than most January and February polls. Despite her victory, she gained only nine delegates on Obama. In particular superdelegates were not swinging in her direction after her win; the Clintons had been trying to secure the support of Congressman Jason Altmire but he remained uncommitted after she won his district by 31 percentage points during the primary.[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Unofficial List of Candidates" (PDF).
  2. ^ a b c "Pennsylvania Delegate Selection Plan For The 2008 Democratic National Convention" (PDF). Pennsylvania Democratic Party. 2007-08-25. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-25. Retrieved 2008-04-21.
  3. ^ a b c d Berg-Andersson, Richard (2008-05-01). "Pennsylvania Democrat Presidential Nominating Process". The Green Papers. Retrieved 2008-05-01.
  4. ^ Infield, Tom (2008-03-24). "The last time a Pa. primary mattered". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on August 30, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
  5. ^ "Former President Bill Clinton to Speak at W&J on Tuesday". Current Press Releases. Washington & Jefferson College. March 10, 2008. Archived from the original on 2011-07-08. Retrieved 2012-02-12.
  6. ^ Alter, Jonathan (2008-03-05). "Hillary's New Math Problem: Tuesday's big wins? The delegate calculus just got worse". Newsweek.
  7. ^ "Bill: Hill needs 'big, big victory' in PA". MSNBC.com. 2008-03-11. Archived from the original on 2008-03-14. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  8. ^ Wheaton, Sarah (2008-02-21). "Bill Clinton: Texas and Ohio or Bust". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-12.
  9. ^ Seelye, Katharine Q (2008-03-10). "Pennsylvania Ties Could Help Clinton". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-14.
  10. ^ "Obama's Bus Tour Rolls Through Pittsburgh, Johnstown, State College - Politics News Story - WTAE Pittsburgh". Archived from the original on 2010-06-08. Retrieved 2008-05-08.
  11. ^ "Bob Casey Endorses Barack Obama". The New York Times. 2008-03-28. Retrieved 2010-05-22.
  12. ^ Obama wins endorsement from Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania - International Herald Tribune
  13. ^ "Obama Bowls for Pennsylvania Voters". The Huffington Post. 2008-03-30.
  14. ^ http://www.mercurynews.com/elections/ci_8750444
  15. ^ Clinton challenges Obama to bowl-off - Hillary Clinton News - nbcnews.com
  16. ^ Fowler, Mayhill (2008-11-17). "Obama: No Surprise That Hard-Pressed Pennsylvanians Turn Bitter". The Huffington Post.
  17. ^ Suarez, Fernando (2008-04-12). "Clinton Says Obama is "Out of Touch" with Middle Class Americans, Calls Comments "Elitist"". CBS News. See also: "McCain Camp: Barack Obama is an "Elitist"". Archived from the original on April 22, 2008.
  18. ^ Bohan, Caren (2008-04-12). "Obama says he erred in comments on "bitter" voters". Reuters.
  19. ^ Finnegan, Michael. “Obama expresses regret for remarks on small towns”, Los Angeles Times (2008-04-13).
  20. ^ Interview by Charlie Rose Archived 2012-07-22 at the Wayback Machine See also: "Full interview with Charlie Rose". Archived from the original on 2014-01-26.
  21. ^ "Presidential Candidate Barack Obama Rally". Philadelphia Independent Media Center. 2008-04-18. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  22. ^ Anburajan, Aswini (2008-04-18). "OBAMA'S CLOSING ARGUMENT?". msnbc.com. Archived from the original on 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  23. ^ Sidoti, Liz (2008-04-19). "Obama takes whistle-stop tour through Pennsylvania". Associated Press. Retrieved 2008-04-20.[permanent dead link]
  24. ^ Roug, Louise (2008-04-20). "Clinton scrambles to hold onto waning lead in Pennsylvania". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2008-04-21. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  25. ^ Fitgerald, Thomas (2008-04-19). "Clinton: I have the political will". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 2008-04-23. Retrieved 2008-04-20.
  26. ^ Davies, Dave (2008-04-15). "Word on the street: No election $". Philadelphia Daily News. Archived from the original on 2008-05-02. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
  27. ^ "2008 Pennsylvania Democratic Presidential Primary". Pollster.com. Archived from the original on 2008-05-09. Retrieved 2008-03-28.
  28. ^ "Quinnipiac University". Archived from the original on 2011-06-05. See also: "Time Magazine" (PDF). "Insider Advantage/Majority Opinion" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-06-25. "Muhlenberg College" (PDF).[permanent dead link] "Public Policy Polling" (PDF).
  29. ^ "Pennsylvania Democratic Primary information at realclearpolitics.com".
  30. ^ "CQ Politics Primary Guide". CQ Politics. Archived from the original on October 29, 2008. Retrieved 2008-02-20.
  31. ^ "Commonwealth of PA - Elections Information". Pennsylvania Department of State. 2008-04-22. Retrieved 2008-05-01.