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Pennsylvania, you're up!

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Samantha Hayes, Washington, D.C.

March 12, 2008

          In the world of presidential politics, prepare to start hearing quite a lot about Pennsylvania. Now that Tuesday's Mississippi primary is behind them, the Democratic candidates, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have six weeks to campaign in the Keystone state before its primary on April 22nd.  In political time, that's an eternity for the candidates to fight for the 158 delegates at stake.

          A recent Susquehanna Polling/Triad Strategies poll of Pennsylvania Democrats conducted from March 5-10th indicates that Clinton has a commanding lead for now, 45% to Obama's 31%.  But quite a few voters, 24%, say they are undecided. 

          Perhaps it's appropriate that Pennsylvania has become the focus of the race for the Democratic nomination.   After all, Pennsylvania was toasted as the "keystone in the federal union" at a victory rally for Thomas Jefferson in October 1802.  

          Clinton and Obama will be campaigning feverishly to secure votes in key demographics.  Clinton's campaign is anticipating support among some of the same groups of voters who turned out for her in Ohio: working-class voters and older voters. She also has the support of Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

          But Barack Obama, who has had success in a grass-roots approach to campaigning, will be focusing that strategy in areas where he has been finding support. Key for Obama will be the state's cities and largest colleges where dozens of organizers have already been dispatched.  For example, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports online that Temple Students for Obama, "is a campaign-sanctioned group with 'dorm leaders' and 'dorm captains' responsible for visiting every residence hall to find new voters." 

          There is also an intense effort on the part of the Obama campaign to encourage new voters to register. That's because the state's primary is closed, meaning only registered Democrats may vote. Therefore, Obama can't count on independents and Republicans to support him in Pennsylvania's primary. 

          By the way, a keystone, by definition, is the central stone in an arch which holds all the other stones in place.  By the time we get to April 23rd, the day after Pennsylvania's contest, perhaps we'll see some stability in the race for the Democratic nomination.

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