by Mark Silva
The first fresh and reliable look at the mood of Pennsylvania voters since the controversy over Barack Obama’s comments about the bitterness of working-class voters flared up over the weekend has arrived: Hillary Clinton holds a steady 6 percentage-point advantage over Obama in a critical state holding its primary one week from today.
Clinton is the choice of 50 percent of the Pennsylvania Democrats surveyed and Obama 44 percent, according to the results of a new Quinnipiac University Poll. The pollsters, who surveyed Pennsylvanians on Saturday and Sunday, conclude that Clinton has “stalled… Obama’s drive’’ in Pennsylvania – with the two candidates’ standing unchanged from the last Quinnipiac Poll released on April 8 – Obama then had been closing a gap with Clinton in earlier surveys taken there.
“Sen. Hillary Clinton is fighting off Sen. Barack Obama’s drive to make it a close race in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, holding the six-point edge she had a week ago. She seems to have halted the erosion of whites and white women in particular from her campaign,” said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
“She even gained back some ground in the Philadelphia suburbs – the area where elections are won and lost in the Keystone State,'' Richards said in a release this morning. "She now trails Obama by just two points in this critical area, while she was 11 points behind a week ago.”
Yet most of the Democrats surveyed in Pennsylvania tell pollsters they still believe that Obama will win the party’s presidential nomination – including 32 percent of the Clinton supporters surveyed.
“Two big questions are whether the Clinton forces can keep from getting discouraged by all the talk she can’t win the nomination even if she wins Pennsylvania and whether enthusiasm for Obama will translate into a record turnout of blacks and young first-time voters that would deny Clinton the victory she needs to stay alive,” Richards added. “A bigger problem for Democrats looms in Pennsylvania. One out of four Clinton voters, including a third of men, say they will vote for Republican Sen. John McCain in November if Obama is the Democratic candidate.’’
The survey of 2,103 likely Democratic primary voters found that 26 percent of Clinton’s supporters said they would switch to Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee, in November if Obama were the Democratic nominee. Nineteen percent of Obama backers said they would switch to McCain if Clinton were the nominee.
Clinton holds a strong advantage over Obama among white Democrats in Pennsylvania, the April 12-13 survey found – Clinton 57, Obama 37. Black Democrats favor Obama by a margin of 96-8.
Clinton has an advantage among women: 51-40, but Obama holds an advantage among men: 51-43. Younger voters (under 45) are supporting Obama by a margin of 55-39, while older voters are backing Clinton by a margin of 55-40.