Obama Begins Pennsylvania Push

The expectations about Pennsylvania are set fairly firmly in place that Hillary Clinton will win the state, likely by double digits, and that if Barack Obama upsets her there it should end the race right then and there. The Obama campaign no doubt is setting their sights on somewhere in between, hoping to spin a single digit loss as a moral victory, but no matter the expectations, it's good to see that Team Obama appears to be taking the fight for Pennsylvania very seriously. First came their launch of three new ads in PA on Friday, and now they've announced plans for a statewide bus tour.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama, who has spent more days campaigning outside Pennsylvania than in the commonwealth since the contest for the state's April 22 primary began, plans a six-day bus tour of the state.

Obama will launch what his campaign has called the "Road to Change" Bus Tour across Pennsylvania.

Tour stops haven't been announced, but the road trip will begin Friday in western Pennsylvania and conclude in the southeast.

Obama gave a hint as to his Pennsylvania strategy in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday:

"Hopefully, I'm going to be able to go back to that style of meeting people one-on-one and in small groups, having conversations," Obama said in an interview with The Inquirer late Friday. "That approach works well for me."

In other words, Obama's hoping to, as the article's headline puts it:

...bring Iowa tactics to Pa. race

The Obama campaign has always been quite nimble, able to shift tactics as events require, and this bus tour strategy, focusing such a concentrated amount of time on the state rather than swooping in for individual events in between campaign stops in other upcoming primary states, appears to be no exception.

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BREAKING: More HRC Superdelegates? Update

A few minutes ago I posted a diary, now deleted, asking myDD administrators to post Clinton's two super delegate endorsements from yesterday, Murtha and Maroney, in the Breaking Blue column since Obama's endorsements seem to get posted there promptly.  It would be nice to see equal reporting of endorsements at myDD.

Now it's been brought to my attention that there may be more superdelegates for Clinton, following Murtha's lead.

From a Feb. article in CQ Politics:

Murtha said he and fellow Pennsylvanians Mike Doyle and Robert Brady will vote as a bloc.

"That's what we're going to do," he said.

Brady backed him up and suggested there could be more in that camp.

"Mr. Murtha speaks for a lot of us, including myself," he said. "If that's what Mr. Murtha says, then I'm with him."

We eagerly await the official announcements.

In the meantime, I'd like to repeat my request to myDD to post Clinton's new SD endorsements from yesterday in the Breaking Blue column, which is seen by thousands every day.

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John Murtha Endorses Hillary Clinton

Things continue to go Hillary Clinton's way in Pennsylvania.

From Anne Kornblut:

Rep. John P. Murtha has announced his endorsement of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, bringing his clout as a 17-term member of the House and a prominent anti-war Democrat to bear with more than a month until the primary here in his home state.

"Sen. Clinton is the candidate that will forge a consensus on health care, education, the economy, and the war in Iraq," Murtha wrote in a statement about his decision. [...]

"Her experience and careful consideration of these issues convinced me that she is best qualified to lead our nation and to bring credibility back to the White House," Murtha said. He said he "whole-heartedly" recommends Clinton to all voters in his state.

Interesting that he would focus his endorsement statement on consensus building, i.e. Obama's turf, rather than being "ready at day one" or her readiness as commander in chief, which Kornblut makes a point of saying is the focus of Clinton's appearances this week.

And for those counting at home, that's another superdelegate in Clinton's column. I'm sure the superdelegate concern trolls throughout the blogosphere will be heralding this addition any second now...

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The Wright Effect

Not difficult to discern the reason for these shifts in numbers over the past few days:

Gallup tracking poll (3/14-16):

Hillary Clinton 47 (45, 46, 44...)
Barack Obama 45 (48, 49, 50...)

Rasmussen tracking poll (3/13-16) :

Barack Obama 46 (47, 46, 50...)
Hillary Clinton 44 (44, 45, 42...)

Rasmussen elaborates:

The dialogue about Wright's controversial comments appears to have had at least a short-term impact on public perceptions of Barack Obama. The Illinois Senator is viewed favorably today by just 47% of voters nationwide. That's down five points since last Thursday. The number with an unfavorable view of Obama has risen from 44% on Thursday to 50% today. Among White voters, Obama is now viewed favorably by 43% and unfavorably by 54%.

We may also be seeing Wright impact Obama's numbers in Pennsylvania. In the latest Quinnipiac Survey (1,304 LVs, Mar. 10-16, MOE +/- 2.7%), Clinton widens her lead from 6 points to 12 points since their last PA poll.

The momentum in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary battle has shifted back to New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who now leads Illinois Sen. Barack Obama 53 - 41 percent among likely primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

This compares to a 49 - 43 percent Sen. Clinton lead in a February 27 poll by the independent Quinnipiac University.  In that survey, the momentum was with Sen. Obama who had narrowed a 52 - 36 percent gap from a February 14 poll.

This movement runs counter to the usual trend leading up to a contest this primary season where it's been Obama who's gained on Clinton. In a disturbing echo of prior recent primaries, the racial polarization between the candidates is widening in Pennsylvania as well.

White voters go with Clinton 61 - 33 percent, compared to 56 - 37 percent February 27.

Black voters back Obama 76 - 18 percent, compared to 69 - 23 percent February 27.

While Quinnipiac doesn't attribute these shifts directly to the Wright controversy, Greg Sargent connects the dots:

The poll was taken March 10-16, meaning that for several days polling took place during the raging controversy over the incendiary remarks by Obama's pastor, Jeremiah Wright -- suggesting the likelihood that the comments (for the time being, anyway) have polarized the electorate and boosted Hillary's white support.

The connection between Reverend Wright's comments and Obama's softening of support is not lost on the Obama campaign, of course, as it is exactly this bleeding he hopes to stanch hopes to stanch with his speech today, set to begin in just a few minutes.

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SV Poll: Clinton Up 18 in PA; Obama Marginally Better v. McCain

Yesterday SurveyUSA released polling showing Hillary Clinton leading Barack Obama by 19 points in Pennsylvania six weeks out from the state's presidential primary. Today Strategic Vision, a Republican pollster, released numbers that weren't altogether different.

11. Who is your choice for the Democratic Presidential nomination in 2008? (Democrats Only)

Hillary Clinton 56%
Barack Obama 38%
Undecided 6%

13. If the election for President were held today and the choices were John McCain, the Republican, and Hillary Clinton, the Democrat for whom would you vote?

John McCain 48%
Hillary Clinton 42%
Undecided 10%

14. If the election for President were held today and the choices were John McCain, the Republican, and Barack Obama, the Democrat for whom would you vote?

John McCain 47%
Barack Obama 44%
Undecided 9%

At this point, the bar is getting set fairly high for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, with not one but two polls showing her up by close to 20 points in the Keystone state. That does not mean that expectations for her performance are getting out of hand, because the Clinton campaign has been remarkably adept at managing expectations. In other words, don't be too surprised if this race is portrayed as closer than it is now come the middle of April (regardless of whether the numbers actually tighten up significantly).

The interesting part of this survey, or at least where it diverges from SurveyUSA's findings, comes in the general election trial heats. According to SUSA, John McCain beats Barack Obama by a 47 percent to 42 percent margin in Pennsylvania -- or not too dissimilar a spread as was found by SV. However, whereas SUSA found Clinton narrowly leading McCain, 47 percent to 46 percent, SV has McCain leading Clinton by an even larger margin than he leads Obama, 48 percent to 42 percent. These numbers could just be statistical noise, but they could also serve to undercut (or at least call to question) the common wisdom successfully pushed by the Clinton campaign that Clinton would be a stronger general election candidate than Obama, particularly in big slightly blue states like Pennsylvania. Then again, with the hard numbers that are coming out of Pennsylania, maybe we have to start reevaluating the proposition that McCain definitely puts the state on the map for the Republicans regardless of who the Democrats nominate...

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