Obama feeds cows, Hillary pumps flesh at gas pumps in Pennsylvania

April 5th, 2008 - 9:22 am ICT by admin  

By Anne K Walters
Pennsylvania, April 5 (DPA) Barack Obama went bowling and fed a calf from a giant bottle. Hillary Clinton met with voters at a gas station and invoked the iconic scene from the film “Rocky”, where the title boxer runs up the Philadelphia art museum stairs. In Pennsylvania, the two Democratic presidential candidates are doing everything they can - including a typical rush of townhall forums and rallies - to appeal to the eastern state’s diverse mix of urban professionals, blue collar industrial workers and farmers.

On April 22, Clinton and Obama face off for the largest remaining group of delegates before August’s nominating convention. Pennsylvania and seven other states have yet to vote.

This eastern state of 12.4 million people is basking in the unaccustomed national media spotlight that the protracted campaign has thrown on them.

Among the rolling hills dotted with farms in this south-central part of the state, former president Bill Clinton drew 3,200 people to a university gymnasium in Carlisle, where a mix of students and working class voters cheered and waved banners.

“Bill for first man,” said one. “I voted for Bill, now I’m voting for Hillary,” said another.

Dan Crotty, 57, a retired transit worker from New York who recently moved to the state because of cheaper housing was there with wife, Pat. The couple praised the Clintons for caring about average citizens.

“She helped our union out a lot,” he said. “She used to come to the garage. She was the only (politician) who did that.”

Clinton is counting on that appeal to working class voters, which helped her win in neighbouring Ohio. She needs a big win in Pennsylvania to overcome Obama’s lead in the delegate count. Obama leads by 140 and needs 2,024 for the nomination. In Pennsylvania, 188 delegates are at stake.

For his part, Obama must scramble to show his clout in a large industrial state like California, Texas and others that have been dominated by Clinton. He has far outspent Clinton in television advertising, reducing her once-double-digit advantage in the polls.

“I think if it’s going to make a difference, she’s going to have to win by a substantial margin,” Steven Peterson, a professor at Pennsylvania State University’s Harrisburg campus, said in an interview.

He said that even if Obama doesn’t win, if he narrows the giant spread between them she will be denied “the momentum that she needs”.

Pennsylvania’s population is concentrated around Philadelphia in the east, an urban hub with a large African American community surrounded by well-to-do suburbs, and Pittsburgh in the west, where heavy steel and mining have given way to education, health care and banking as major employers.

In between lies a swath of former mining towns and rural farming communities, where conservative values, gun ownership and an anti-government streak have given dominance to Republicans.

As a whole, the state is less racially diverse, has lower incomes and more senior citizens - attracted by tax advantages - than the nation as a whole, census data show.

“It’s almost like there are different Pennsylvanias,” Peterson said, stressing the candidates must carefully tailor their message while being careful not to pander.

Obama leads in Philadelphia, with suburban, inner city and African Americans on his side, he said. Clinton appeals to Pittsburgh and the state’s central and western areas, with their older, working class voters.

“Her strength is her clear advantage among white voters - blue collar whites, less educated whites, economically hurting whites, that group known famously as Reagan Democrats in the Keystone State,” Clay Richards, assistant director of Quinnipiac University’ Polling Institute in Connecticut, said in a statement.

The pollster, Rasmussen Reports, found the ailing economy is voters’ top priority in the state.

Among voters who list their pocketbook as their main concern, Clinton leads Obama by 16 points. She also leads among voters who say health care is their critical issue.

Obama wins over voters who list the war in Iraq as their top concern.

In Carlisle, Bill Clinton’s explanation of his wife’s economic plan brought cheers.

Patty Erskine, 52, an administrative coordinator, cited the expense of sending her children to college and said she is drawn to Clinton because she believes the candidate can best “jump start” the economy.

When the former president asked the audience how many knew someone without health insurance, more than three-quarters raised their hands.

Tom Harry, 62, a retired pilot and undecided, said he worries about losing benefits and was weighing both candidates.

Obama still trails with only 41 percent support among likely primary voters to Clinton’s 50 percent, the Quinnipiac survey showed.

“Obama is marshalling all his forces, but despite his eloquent dialogue on the race issue, Pennsylvania Democrats are unmoved so far,” Richards said.

Still, supporters like Sherry Harper-McCombs, a 41-year-old theatre professor who wore an Obama sticker to the Bill Clinton rally, think he can gain ground here.

“I’m ready for a different tone and I don’t think Hillary, given her history and the animosity toward her, has the ability to overcome that,” Harper-McCombs said.

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