Clinton Takes Pennsylvania
Victory Ensures That Tight Nominating Contest Will Keep Going
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
PHILADELPHIA, April 22 -- Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton won the Pennsylvania presidential primary decisively on Tuesday night, running up a 10-percentage-point victory that bolstered her case for staying in the race for the Democratic nomination.
Sen. Barack Obama played down a defeat that did not substantially reduce his delegate lead, but the outcome only further muddled a race that has stretched on for nearly four months and has sharply divided the party. The two will meet again in primaries in Indiana and North Carolina on May 6.
An estimated 2 million Democrats voted, nearly triple the number who turned out in the past two presidential primaries in the state. Clinton ran up big margins with her core constituencies, winning white voters with incomes under $50,000 by 32 points, voters over age 65 by 26 percent, and Catholic voters by 38 percent -- more than countering Obama's strong showing among black voters and higher-income whites in Philadelphia and its suburbs. She signaled that despite her dramatic financial disadvantage, she has no intention of getting out before the last votes are cast on June 3.
"It's a long road to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and it runs right through the heart of Pennsylvania," Clinton said at a raucous post-election rally in Philadelphia. After a campaign that went on for more than a month and a half in the Keystone State, she said: "You listened, and today, you chose."
"Some people counted me out and said to drop out. But the American people don't quit, and they deserve a president who doesn't quit, either," she said.
Obama congratulated Clinton at a campaign event in Evansville, Ind., but also sought to move beyond a contest in Pennsylvania in which he heavily outspent her and became bogged down in a string of controversies, including reports about the incendiary comments of his former pastor and his own remarks about "bitter" small-town residents during a San Francisco fundraiser.
"It's easy to get caught up in the distractions and the silliness and the tit-for-tat that consumes our politics -- the bickering that none of us are immune to -- and that trivializes the profound issues: two wars, an economy in recession, a planet in peril," he said. "But that kind of politics is not why we're here tonight. It's not why I'm here and it's not why you're here."
Describing the victory as "deeply personal," the senator from New York recounted once again her family history in Pennsylvania -- the story of her grandfather, and her father, a lace-mill worker from Scranton, which she has folded into her biography as evidence that she would be a populist fighter.
"I am back here tonight because of their hard work and sacrifice," she said. "In this election, I carry with me not just their dreams, but the dreams of people like them and like you all across our country. People who embrace hard work and opportunity, who never waver in the face of adversity, who stand for what you believe and never stop believing in the promise of America."
Clinton continued: "I'm in this race to fight for you, to fight for everyone who's ever been counted out, for everyone fighting to pay the grocery bills or the medical bills . . . and the outrageous price of gas at the pump today." Her campaign played the theme song from "Rocky" at the rally, part of an ongoing effort to turn Clinton's fall from inevitability as an asset.
Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Clinton's top supporter in the state, described the victory at a post-election rally as an "earthquake" that would change the dynamic of the Democratic race. It came as a huge relief for Clinton aides, who say their only chance of an upset is to run off a string of triumphs.
Yet it was a relief for the Obama campaign, too. The senator from Illinois denied Clinton an overwhelming landslide in a state that played to her demographic strengths, with its many working-class, elderly and Catholic voters, and it put her back on uphill terrain. Obama continues to hold a huge financial advantage and a lead in pledged delegates that will be almost impossible for Clinton to surpass in the few contests that remain.