Exit polls show sharp divide among Democrats
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Election officials in Pennsylvania's largest cities reported solid but not record-breaking turnout for the state's Democratic primary after a bruising seven-week campaign.
Democrats gather at a polling station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday.
Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama in published polls going into the primary, the biggest remaining contest of the Democratic presidential race. Analysts had said Obama would need to rack up a wide margin with strong turnout in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties to pull ahead.
CNN projected a Clinton victory. With about a quarter of precincts reporting Tuesday night, she was leading Barack Obama 54-46 percent.
Exit polls indicated that Philadelphia and its suburbs made up more than 30 percent of the vote, and those boxes were tilted heavily toward Obama. But Clinton supporters turned out heavily in Pittsburgh and the counties of western Pennsylvania, and she was racking up similarly lopsided margins in the state's industrial northeast, those surveys found.
Fred Voight, Philadelphia's deputy city commissioner, said there were long lines at polling stations in the state's largest city, with only occasional problems reported. He attributed the turnout to the fact that for the first time in 30-plus years, the Democratic race is not settled when Pennsylvania votes.
"You can't really judge until it's over, but based upon other factors, it's a very robust election," Voight said.
"The last time Pennsylvania was in that mix was Jimmy Carter [in 1976], so this is an unusual primary for us," he said. "But we've had other primaries that were monstrous."
In Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Elections Manager Mark Wolosik said turnout was "busy but nowhere near a record."
Obama racked up margins of more than 90 percent among Pennsylvania's black voters, who are heavily concentrated around Philadelphia. African-Americans made up about 14 percent of Tuesday's vote, and whites made up about 80 percent -- and voted 60-40 for Clinton.
The last week of campaigning included a bruising debate between Obama and Clinton, who also pounded her rival for a recent remark that decades of economic decline had left some rural voters "bitter" and clinging to religion and guns. CNN exit polls showed that nearly a quarter of state voters made their decisions in the past week, and those voters leaned toward Clinton by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.
Obama cut sharply into the double-digit lead Clinton held in published polls of Pennsylvanians when the campaign began seven weeks ago. But he outspent her by 2-to-1, and Clinton's campaign has begun questioning whether he could stand up to Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, after losing his third big state in a row.
"The press and the pundits have repeatedly counted Sen. Clinton out, and she has repeatedly proved them wrong," her campaign said. "The vote in the bellwether state of Pennsylvania is another head-to-head measure of the two candidates and of the coalition they will put together to compete and win in November."
Obama said he would continue to lead Clinton in the overall race even if he loses in Pennsylvania but admitted Tuesday afternoon that the state has been "an uphill climb."
"I don't try to pretend that I enjoy getting 45 percent, and that's a moral victory," the first-term Illinois senator said. "We've lost the state. What I do believe is that we're coming to the end of this process. We've won twice as many states, we've won the popular vote by fairly substantial margins, we've got a very big lead in pledged delegates, and we competed, win or lose."
Weekly churchgoers made up almost 36 percent of Tuesday's electorate, and they went to Clinton by a 56-44 margin. More than a third of the voters were gun owners, and they preferred Clinton by a similar margin: 60 percent to 40 percent, the polls found.
But the contest appears to have left a bad taste in the mouth of many voters: Eleven percent of those voting in the Democratic race said they would vote for McCain over Clinton. Another 6 percent said they would stay home in a race between McCain and Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady.
Ten percent of Democrats said they would sit on their hands in a McCain-Obama race, and 15 percent said they would vote for McCain over the Illinois senator.
A total of 158 delegates to the party's August convention in Denver were at stake Tuesday night, with delegates allocated by congressional district and weighted toward districts with strong performances. Clinton trails Obama in the number of delegates each has won to the August convention and would need to win by a large margin to make up much ground.
Pennsylvania has high percentages of some core Clinton constituencies: Catholics, voters over 60 and blue-collar workers. She led strongly in all those categories, according to exit polls, and Obama led strongly among voters 18-29.
Clinton had the support of the state's top Democrats: Gov. Ed Rendell and the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But another leading Clinton backer, Johnstown-area congressman John Murtha, said Clinton "has to" win the state.
"That's all there is to it," Murtha said.
As in previous contests, the slumping economy was the No. 1 issue among Pennsylvania voters, polls found, and Clinton led Obama by a double-digit margin, 56 percent to 44 percent, among voters who considered it their top concern.
Admittedly, I am much more sympathetic to Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton. This is in large part because his last name is not Clinton and not associated with all of the right-wing legislation that was passed during the Clinton Presidency, which Hillary supported--such as NAFTA and the Welfare Reform Act (even lobbying for its passage, after betraying her political friend and mentor, child-rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman). Most importantly, Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning, which Senator Clinton did not, at least until around 2004 or 2005 (depending on which speech you believe). Of course, Obama is hardly a perfect figure for progressives. He has stated his support for the death penalty, has a health care plan every bit as watered down as Senator Clinton's, and while right on Iraq has also made remarks about Pakistan that almost sound like a call for a pre-emptive invasion.
The clincher in cementing my dislike for the Hillary Clinton 2008 Presidential campaign has been the low-level race-baiting. Be it Senator Clinton's campaign staff sending a picture of Senator Obama in a local garb during an African trip to the Drudge Report (with the intent of making Obama look like a radical Muslim), Clinton campaign finance director and ex-VP nominee Geraldine Ferraro openly race-baiting Senator Obama by claiming he is receiving special treatment because he is black, to the hit squad speeches of people like Bill Clinton (again, claiming that Obama was "using the race card" on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary to whiten Clinton's support in the state [the one and most loyal voting bloc to her campaign]). It is something right out of George Wallace 1968, and to see so many liberals within the party willingly sticking their heads in the sand, knowing that Senator Obama cannot complain (without fear of being accused of "playing the race card" [thereby realizing what his opponents have been trying to do all along, which is constrict Senator Obama's base to African Americans only]), has been one of the real disgraces of this campaign.
And where is the Democratic leadership? Mostly behind Senator Clinton. It says much that the vast majority of the elected white Democratic officials have backed Clinton in this campaign, even thought they are well aware there is no way, even with Pennsylvania, that she can win the popular vote or elected delegates before the convention. Knowing this, why support Clinton? Loyalty to a party from a family that has done more to destroy the remaining progressive roots of the Democratic Party?
The support of unions is the most odious of all. When Bill Clinton was elected President back in 1992, he ran for office as a pro-union Democrat. He criticized trade pacts that hurt American workers and called for a striker replacement bill (sound familiar?). When Bill was elected President in 1992, he had a near 3 to 2 Democratic advantage in the House and Senate. He spent absolutely no time, not one minute, campaigning for a striker replacement bill, which died in committee (a Democratic one, in which the President who ran for office on signing an anti-scab bill did nothing to stop). And yet, during the year 1993, Bill Clinton's first as President, he found time, over a hundred hours, to personally lobby and campaign members of Congress for the passage of NAFTA. In fact, the same NAFTA that Hillary Clinton is so mildly critical of today, she supported the passage of in 1993 in multiple public speeches. And what are Senator Clinton's words on a striker replacement bill today?
It is not an understatement to say that NAFTA has probably done more to destroy the blue collar and industrial base of this country's work force than any piece of legislation in American history. It is the Poor Law of the American worker, not because it liquidated all of those jobs to Mexico (although this took place to some extent). It was the death knell of the American worker because NAFTA was the precursor to its global version, GATT. The moving of capital and jobs across borders without consideration of worker's rights, wages, and jobs is why states like Ohio and Pennsylvania have lost 1 out of 6 jobs in traditional industries in the last decade. It is why the Midwest is being turned into a modern day clearinghouse for coming ghost towns and post-industrial cities (Youngstown, Ohio, a steel town, has seen its population halved in two decades and Pittsburgh shrank by 60% since the mid 1960s). And what is labor's response to the people who stabbed them in the back, cut them off at the knees, and slit the artery veins of their base's jobs year after year? Note that Clinton 2008 does not even bother to campaign on the issue of a striker replacement bill.
If Gerald McEntee, the leader of AFSCME (one of the largest unions in this country and a longtime Clinton supporter), honestly thinks that Hillary Clinton is going to represent his interests, he will be as mistaken as he was in 1992 (back when he put his support behind Bill Clinton). I remember that campaign because I was a member of a related union and received some of the AFSCME "literature" at that time. I remember the speeches McEntee made on behalf of Bill Clinton during the '92 primaries, claiming that only Bill Clinton would get a striker replacement bill and only he would stand up for American workers in trade agreements (as then Governor Clinton used Bush's support of trade with China to criticize Bush Sr. for "coddling" the "butchers of Beijing"). The same Gerald McEntee is now making near identical speeches on behalf of Hillary Clinton, knowing (and there is no way he can be so blind) that she will never try to renegotiate NAFTA and will pay as much attention to a striker replacement bill as the average Republican. He knows she supported the passage of NAFTA and still supports it today (only advancing a greater enforcement of toothless environmental and labor rights side agreements in the treaty [which even then was not taken seriously by McEntee, who opposed the passage of NAFTA]). How can any person who considers him or herself responsible for the livelihoods of over a million workers in good conscience be so gullible as to return the support of someone whose rhetorical advocacy helped lead to the passage of the greatest killer of American jobs in the post-World War Two era?