An Unwitting Assist From the Hockey Mom

As Hillary Clinton gamely suits up for the Obama team, it's another woman who appears to be shaping the game.
As Hillary Clinton gamely suits up for the Obama team, it's another woman who appears to be shaping the game. (By Bradley C. Bower -- Associated Press)
By Dana Milbank
Tuesday, October 14, 2008

PHILADELPHIA, Oct. 13 The Hillary voter has come home.

It wasn't primarily the work of Hillary Clinton, though by her count she has made more than 50 public appearances for Barack Obama. Nor was it the work of Obama, who has kept Clinton and her advisers at arm's length. No, the one who put the Hillary Clinton voters in Obama's column was John McCain -- with his choice of a running mate.

"Palin -- God forbid! Where did they find her?" Evelyn Fruman exclaimed Monday before a Clinton speech at a Jewish community center here.

"God forbid!" Gail Silverberg chimed in. "Hockey moms and lipstick on a pig and six-packs? I don't want that stuff."

Nearby, Rina Jampolsky was wearing a "Hillary Sent Me" button next to a pin saying "Barack Obama" in Hebrew. "I thought I wouldn't vote at all when Hillary left the race," she said. "But as soon as McCain selected Sarah Palin, my decision was made."

They were the quintessential Hillary supporters waiting for their heroine at the hall in northeast Philly: virtually all white, mostly women, and mostly old. Of the minority who weren't Jewish, most were Catholic. In the local state Senate district, primary voters went for Clinton over Obama by 3 to 1.

But something has happened in recent weeks among the Clinton faithful. Fear of the right-wing Palin, coupled with the economic collapse, has caused them to quietly swallow their Obama misgivings. "It's amazing," said Brendan Doyle, who has been knocking on doors here for the Democratic candidate for state Senate. "The last four weeks I've seen a big turn."

The new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds the same thing. Fully 81 percent of Democrats and like-minded independents who favored Clinton said they now back Obama. If Obama gets the 90 percent of Democrats who tell the pollsters they support him, he will do better than any other Democratic candidate in nearly 40 years.

Of course, there are still some tender feelings -- most publicly those of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, who gave a most unusual introduction to Clinton at her rally for Obama on Monday in Horsham, near Philadelphia.

"The proudest accomplishment I'll look back on is the seven-week campaign we ran for Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania," Rendell said. About half of the several hundred people at the outdoor rally applauded.

"I have never seen a seven-week campaign catch fire the way that campaign did," Rendell went on. A smaller number of people clapped.

"It was wonderful to see people who would tell me, 'I'm never voting for Hillary Clinton,' by the end of that seven weeks were avid Hillary Clinton supporters," Rendell continued. This time nobody applauded.

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