Voters in Pennsylvania - a state custom-made for a Hillary Rodham Clinton victory - could decide Tuesday whether she fights on for the Democratic presidential nomination or faces mounting pressure to shut down her campaign against front-runner Barack Obama.
Obama predicted Monday that Clinton would win the Pennsylvania primary, but said his goal is to keep it close. An Obama upset or a narrow Clinton win could be a potential knockout blow to the former first lady’s presidential hopes.
The final days of the race spawned some of the nastiest campaigning by either Clinton or Obama, as they apparently sensed the balloting could be decisive in the historic race that could put the first woman or first African American in the US presidency.
Many Democrats fear prolonging the contest will damage the party’s chances against the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who effectively won his party’s nomination nearly two months ago.
National polls already show McCain running about even with either Democrat despite deep voter displeasure with Republican President George W. Bush and his handling of the Iraq war and the slumping American economy.
Clinton began the Pennsylvania race with a 20-point lead in several polls, but Obama’s extensive campaigning and heavy TV advertising significantly cut her lead among the state’s Democrats - a group that is older, whiter, earns less and has fewer college degrees than the country overall. Those voters have formed the backbone of Clinton’s support in the primary campaign.
Clinton trails Obama by 139 delegates going into Tuesday’s vote, with just nine primary and caucus contests remaining.
Democratic Party rules for apportioning delegates to the party’s national nominating convention mean that she needs to beat Obama by about 20 percentage points or more in Pennsylvania and all the contests going forward to overcome his lead - a virtual impossibility.
Regardless, Clinton aides sought to keep expectations low, insisting they would be grateful for a win no matter how close. (AP)
Pennsylvania voters could determine Clinton’s presidential hopes