- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is pulling away from her rival Sen. Barack Obama in a poll of likely voters in Tuesday’s Pennsylvania Democratic presidential primary, a poll completed late Sunday shows.

Mrs. Clinton of New York leads Mr. Obama of Illinois by 10 percentage points - the largest lead between the two candidates in any poll in Pennsylvania in the past week. The poll was conducted by David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center.

When asked whom they would vote for in November if their candidate - Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Obama - isn’t the Democratic nominee, 20 percent of likely Pennsylvania Democratic primary voters in the poll said they would vote for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the presumptive Republican nominee. Four percent said they would vote for third party candidate Ralph Nader, the poll shows.

Pennsylvania is considered crucial for Mrs. Clinton, who is struggling to remain viable despite trailing Mr. Obama in both delegates and the popular vote so far in the longest Democratic presidential primary contest in the memory of many of today’s voters.

Mrs. Clinton has been leading by as little as three points and as many as six points in the most recent John Zogby polls of likely Democratic primary voters. Pressure on Mrs. Clinton from some fellow Democrats to concede the nomination to Mr. Obama is expected to grow if she fails to win Tuesday’s primary in the Keystone State by a significant margin. In the poll, Mrs. Clinton got the nod from 52 percent of the state’s Democrats for the nomination and Mr. Obama won the affection of 42 percent. “Her 10 point lead is significant because it keeps her alive in the Democratic primary,” Mr. Paleologos told The Washington Times. “The issue for the Democrats is not so much as about this primary going on and on but about 20 percent of them the sore losers - saying they will vote for John McCain if their favored Democrat isn’t their party’s nominee.” In turn, what is significant about that is these are not independents planning to vote in the Democratic primary but registered Democrats. “Some of them could be people who switched from Republican to Democrat to vote in this primary but had always intended to vote for McCain,” Mr. Paleologos said. But the Democrats cannot afford the political spillage of support from their party to Mr. McCain or to Mr. Nader, for that matter. “In November, the contest is for independent voters who, in a year like this, could be predisposed against the current administration the party in power,” Mr. Paleologos said. “Democrats can’t begin to make case to independents till they lock up their own core supporters, and this poll suggests there is a problem holding on to those core voters.” Mrs. Clinton may owe her gain as much to a top-flight ground team in the state, the help of its Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, and some quiet appeals to black Pennsylvanians as to Mr. Obama’s “bitterness” comment last week about rural voters’ affection for religion and guns. Most Democrats in the Suffolk poll said he hadn’t intended to demean these rural voters, and most respondents in the poll also were in a forgiving mood about Mrs. Clinton’s gaffe involving a false claim that she and her daughter came under sniper fire in a visit to Bosnia.

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