Pennsylvania’s A Bitter Pill for Senator Obama

Looks like a big win—55 percent to 45 percent–for Senator Clinton tonight in Pennsylvania, despite having been outspent nearly three to one there by Senator Obama. But having conducted my own informal poll of Pennsylvania Democrats over the past week and a half, I am not the least bit surprised by tonight’s result.

Obama’s heavily funded campaign has been flooding TV airwaves all week in Pennsylvania with back-to-back commercials (“I’ve never seen anything like it,” one Pennsylvania woman told me today, “I can’t tell you how Obama has inundated the airwaves, sometimes one commercial immediately following the other.”)

However, although Senator Obama carried Philadelphia by a large margin, in some of the counties surrounding Philadelphia, Clinton won. And if you look at The New York Times’ map breaking down the vote across the state, it’s clear that she really cleaned his clock in just about every rural or semi-rural county.

In Western Pennsylvania, the section of the state in which I was interviewing people, she won by an at least two thirds majority in almost every county: outside Pittsburgh, in Washington County, 71 percent to 29 percent; in Greene County, 75 percent to 25 percent; in Beaver County 70 percent to 30 percent; in Fayette County 81 percent to 19 percent. Most of the areas within these counties are rural or semi-rural; some of this area is former steel country.

Based on my admittedly very unscientific polling, I do believe Senator Obama’s recent remarks about people in “these small towns in Pennsylvania” played a role in the size of this ten point victory for Senator Clinton. Although most of the people with whom I spoke said Senator Obama’s remarks would not decide their vote, many—including those who were willing to forgive him the remarks—said they hurt.

“I had been leaning toward Hillary but it was definitely a turnoff,” Sylvia Caplinger, 44, an interior decorator from Beaver County, Pa., told me in a phone interview Monday evening. “It makes you think he doesn’t think a whole lot of us, like we’re all backward. Before [hearing about Senator Obama’s comments] I hadn’t really decided.”

Ms. Caplinger added, “Small town doesn’t mean uneducated …We’re not all tied up in one way of thinking. It’s not just about our town, it’s national and international issues, too.”

Pennsylvania folks tend to be plainspoken and straightforward, and not to forget what’s most basic. My instinct is if Mr. Obama had apologized, head-on and with sincerity, for the remarks, he would have done better there.

This entry was written by and posted on April 23, 2008 at 12:38 am and filed under Blog.

1 response to Pennsylvania’s A Bitter Pill for Senator Obama
  • 1.

    Marylin Pitz

    April 23, 2008 at 12:00 pm


    I agree with you on this, Ms. R. But I'll go a step further--I think the longer this primary season goes on--the more total character (personality, strengths and weaknesses) of these candidates is revealed. He is as flawed a human being as anybody else, capable of plenty of mistakes (like this "bitter" one)dressed up for the world as a hero/saviour; and she's probably ruthless, but has got a spine of steeel. And we are witnessing a knock-down, dragged-out fight to the finish. Go, McCain, if you're smart enough to realize and capitalize. M.P.