Those who went to hear the Philadelphia Orchestra last Thursday were in for a surprise. They came to listen to music in honor of the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence and received a bonus in the presence of presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton.
Clinton and her rival for the Democratic Party's candidacy, Senator Barack Obama, have spent considerable time wooing the Philadelphia-area Jewish community in a primary race (the vote is Tuesday) that will be a close one. A small margin in the vote will be a victory for Obama, regardless of who actually wins.
The exact results are almost secondary. Clinton, who until recently led in state polls by 20 percent, needs an impressive victory to persuade voters in the next primary states that she can still win. Obama would make do with less. His staff says a single digit win in the primary for Clinton will be considered a triumph for Obama, who said Monday that he didn't expect to win, but expected to see a close result.
Recent polls indicate Obama stands a fair chance. They predict Clinton's margin will be a single-digit number, between 5 and 7 percent. If the polls are right, the number of delegates each candidate would have gained will not much alter the pre-primary situation, and that would play in Obama's favor, as he is 5 percent ahead in North Carolina and Indiana, according to the polls.
Last week Obama appeared before the congregants at the Rodeph Shalom synagogue in Philadelphia. During his speech, he criticized President George Bush and former president Bill Clinton for not doing enough, he said, to push forward the peace process. Just as in his most recent debate with Hillary Clinton, Obama was kept busy defending himself. He was again asked about inflammatory remarks made by his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and why he didn't leave his church and severe ties with him. Obama reiterated the familiar responses. "My ties to the Jewish community are not political," he said. "They are based on a sense of shared commitments."
A Newsweek poll from last week puts Obama ahead of Clinton among Democrats in a nationwide poll by a margin of almost 20 percent. Despite the political tumult and growing disharmony between the two candidates, April has been a good month for Obama. He increased his lead in the polls and raised more money than Clinton, an advantage that was felt in the Pennsylvania campaign, where he spent $9 million to Clinton's $3 million.
The Newsweek poll gave Obama more good news: He has taken the lead among female Democrats. Only one demographic eludes him: White, working-class males. They favor Clinton by a margin of 20 percent, a worrying sign for Obama and the Democratic Party. When super delegates have to decide for whom to cast their votes, this may be a cause for concern. These votes could possibly switch to the tipped Republican, Senator John McCain if Obama is the Democratic candidate.
William Kristol, the conservative editor of the Weekly Standard and a columnist for the New York Times, yesterday came up with an amusing comparison between the three candidates: "So if Clinton's Passover message is liberal, and Obama's is multicultural, one might call McCain's Zionist," Kristol wrote.
McCain, it seems, has decided his opponent will be Obama and is going after him. On Sunday he raised the issue of Obama's alleged ties with former radical leftist activists from the '60s.
McCain has designs on Pennsylvania. He could be the oldest-ever candidate in a presidential race, and Pennsylvania has the second oldest average age in the U.S., after Florida. Its voters, however, prefer a leftist economic stance and otherwise right-wing values. This is counter to the national trend of preferring conservative economic policies and liberal values. That's why Pennsylvania is an ideal target for Clinton who, over the past few months, has been advocating a populist economic policy while clinging to the center on values: Abortion, guns, religion and security. She went after Obama relentlessly for his comment that small-town Americans "are bitter and cling to guns and religion as as symptoms of frustration. She had nothing to lose.
Obama's response to the attacks initially did not sound convincing but he has been fighting back, not an easy decision for a candidate whose campaign is based on changing the political climate. Clinton is perceived as a candidate who will do everything, say anything to win, which is why Obama's advisers reached the conclusion that from now on, he has to show the electorate that he, too, can throw barbs when necessary. In Pennsylvania winning the primary is not Obama's main objective: a small margin will be a victory as far as he is concerned. The main objective is to calm super delegates and convince them that Obama is strong and tough enough to win in November.
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