In Pennsylvania, white male vote is key
White men are a critical group of voters for Democratic candidates in Tuesday's primary – and the most ambivalent.
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It is Obama, though, who seriously risked alienating gun owners in the run up to Pennsylvania with his private comments at a San Francisco fundraiser, where he talked about "bitter" small-town voters who "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."Skip to next paragraph
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But for now, what has been dubbed "Bittergate" does not seem to have hurt Obama in Pennsylvania, at least in the Democratic primary. The average of the latest polls shows him trailing Clinton by about five percentage points, which is roughly where he has been since he began advertising heavily in the state.
In conversations with voters at a front-porch rally featuring Bill Clinton in Brookville, Pa., a town of 5,000, none of the Democrats expressed concern over Obama's remark. Many present were Republicans, out on a sunny day to see an ex-president in the flesh, but with no intention of considering either his wife or Obama in November.
Bill French, a longtime Brookville resident, counts himself among Pennsylvania's ambivalent white male Democrats. He was disappointed by last Wednesday's Clinton-Obama debate which was dominated by a discussion of both candidates' gaffes of the past month, and still has not made a final decision between the two.
"I want to hear them debate, and stop the name-calling," says Mr. French, a retired high school history teacher who is now an Episcopal priest. "Which of these two will bring jobs back to northwestern Pennsylvania?"
When asked about "Bittergate," French leans in and whispers: "In some ways [Obama] is right. Some of these guys would die before they'd give up their guns."
Jeannie Harriger Petardi, a local real estate agent and gun owner, is leaning toward Clinton in the primary, but would be fine with Obama as the nominee. "A lot of Obama supporters would rather have a man, which makes me annoyed," she says.
Then there are the Clinton supporters who say they would never vote for Obama. "If he can't wear an American flag pin, I can't vote for him," says John Delaney, a Vietnam War vet who is sporting a "Dumb and Dumber" T-shirt showing President Bush and his father (which he says former President Clinton refused to sign).