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April 21st, 2008
02:04 PM ET

Why Pennsylvania is such a challenge

Randi Kaye
360° Correspondent

From the moment I walked into the Pennsylvania home shared by Arnie Freedman and his companion of 12 years, Shelly Winston, I knew we were going to get some strong opinions.

This couple represents your typical “older” Pennsylvania voter. The voter that tends to favor Hillary Clinton but that Barack Obama is trying to win over. From the sounds of it, he’s going to have a tough go of it in this household.

Arnie is 62. Shelly is 61. They aren’t retiring anytime soon but they do worry about retiring comfortably. Some background: they were in high school when John F. Kennedy was in the White House. Arnie was in the Air Force when Obama was in diapers, so that should help you understand where he’s coming from.

Both Arnie and Shelly are planning to vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Shelly thinks Clinton knows the ins and outs of Washington and she likes that. Arnie says “with experience comes wisdom” and he simply thinks Clinton has more of it.

Like other older voters, they are worried about the economy, retirement savings, and social security. We interviewed them and listened to them chat as they made lunch together on a recent Wednesday afternoon.

Their main concern about Obama is his level of experience. They wonder if he has what it takes to handle the country’s economy and other financial concerns.

Shelly put it to me this way, “I hope there's gonna be Medicare, we're eligible in a couple years for it. I just don't want to wake up one day and everything's gone cause someone didn't do the right thing economically.”

I asked political expert Don Kettl, from the University of Pennsylvania, what Obama can do to win over the older voter. He had this advice, “Assure older voters that stability in the economy and savings is going to be there, that he can make sure inflation isn't going to eat away at the savings, that Medicaid will be funded, Social Security's gonna be there.”

If the polls are correct, Obama must be doing something right already. He’s been closing the gap with Clinton in the last couple of weeks. In the CNN's "poll of polls" released today, he was just 7 points behind her. In a state that sports is the second oldest voter demographic in the country, behind Florida, that’s pretty good for the senator from Illinois, who tends to fire up the younger voters.

Arnie and Shelly may not be sold, but we’ll have to wait until April 22nd to see which way the rest of the state goes….


Filed under: Barack Obama • Randi Kaye • Raw Politics
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. Katie

    I live in rural Washingtonville, Pennsylvania, which is right outside of Danville. I am originally from Easton, Pennsylvania. I have to admit that I was a Hillary Clinton supporter but have long since changed my views. I believe that Barack Obama is a good person. He is a family man with to young children. I feel he can better relate to me, because he too has to try and raise children in this mess of a country. Also, he has had to overcome a lot. America is a tough country and if you can come this close, just even as a black american, you are surely an extraordinary person. I always hear on the news how Obama should apologize for this or that. I think it's insane. If anyone owes anybody an apology, it's our current administration! Where is the call for their apology??!!>? I had lost hope in our government. I thought I would always have to go with the flow and just try to do the best I could. I felt like I lost my voice; for the people and by the people had lost it's luster for me a long time ago. When I first heard Obama speak, I heard in him my own concerns, my own voice. I feel like Obama represents me, my family and friends, and our best intrests. I am proud to have a canidate, that I feel, serves me and speaks for me. I am also proud to be a part of such an historical election, either way it turns out. I believe Obama has what it takes to turn our country around. He seems to me to be a peace maker and I really like that; it's like a breath of fresh air.

    April 22, 2008 at 12:12 pm |
  2. Michelle

    Why Condi Rice...because she is bla...I mean... because she is the best qualified to run as vice to McCain.

    What is really interesting to me is that Obama has never seemed to want to play the race card. News Flash! Barack is bi-racial. He is a white man with a black father -or- a black man with a white mother. He grew up in both worlds and, I suspect, has a very different perspective on race than people suppose. I suspect he sees himself as someone who both respects the cultural aspects of different races but also transcends race by seeing himself as a world citizen. I was very sad when Billary awakened and gave credence to the festering bigotry of the past. Maybe this was not a bad thing. Maybe we can use the issue of race that has arisen to begin a healthier dialogue.

    Older Americans were raised in an era when whites didn't eat in Black's homes, where schools were segregated and racist jokes were the norm. When I was young I heard the N word used in regular conversations to describe Black Americans. This is the cultural indoctrination many older Americans cannot get beyond. However, my 98 year old, conservative grandfather says he is leaning towards Obama. So maybe there is hope for older America.

    April 22, 2008 at 2:48 am |
  3. Kelly

    Patsy,
    if you are so brave.. go to south philly and say...

    think Whites are being pushed around and we are all too worried about politically correctness to stand up for ourselves. After all…..We wouldn’t want to seem racist.

    April 22, 2008 at 2:11 am |
  4. Barb, Des Plaines, IL

    Pennsylvania?? Can't wait to see, but when it's all said and done I'm betting Obama will take it in the end? I don't get why the Clintons aren't raising more money. That lack of fund raising speaks louder than all the voters in all the states combined. Historically there have been some great candidates, candidates with loads better resumes than McCain or Clinton, but by the end of the dance they didn't have enough money to phone home for a ride. Face it, Obama has the money to take the Dems all the way.
    I just got an email from Howard Dean asking for money to air an anti-McCain ad. Dean is looking for $500,000 (sounds like chicken scratch.) Obama started the month with some 41 million. Hillary's coffers are in the tanks. Has McCain got 41 million? It looks to me like Obama has a quantum physics formula for raising money. He's on a wholenutherlevel! Now who can afford to build a bridge to the future? The rest of these guys–they can't get it together to patch a couple lousy potholes.

    April 22, 2008 at 12:37 am |
  5. Charles

    After watching the Clinton performance the last two weeks I have decided that if she should get the nomination, I will not vote. I cannot vote for a Republican and I will not vote for her.

    April 21, 2008 at 11:28 pm |
  6. sue B

    I sincerely hope that our country votes for the Best Leader and not for gender or race! Having said that I wonder if this country will ever be ready for a Black man...
    Experience.....MaCain is really the one who has most. Does that make him the best? It is all about changes. Presence of a 35,000 people to hear Obama is more than just significant.

    Hope is all we have. I will support Hillary if she by miracle, changing rules, tears-wins the nomination. But in the mean time, lets pray for the wisdom and peace for ALL.
    Obama needs to win!

    April 21, 2008 at 11:26 pm |
  7. Lanette

    Why is it you are not running the add with the PENNSALVANYIA gov speaking highly of Farrakhan and sharing the same stage ? If it were an OBAMA supporter you people would be running it forever.
    Lanette / Silver Spring

    April 21, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  8. Mike in NYC

    Patsy wrote:

    "Why should white people be guilty?? ... Personally, I think Whites are being pushed around and we are all too worried about politically correctness to stand up for ourselves."

    Good for you. Of course, that didn't stop you from saying:

    "Am I NOT anti Black."

    Political correctness required you to say that.

    Patsy also wrote:

    "I am personally hoping that Condoleezza Rice runs with McCain. Now that would be an unbeatable team !!!"

    She picks a sub-standard Secretary of State as proof of her anti-racism. Rice is a pillar of the current administration's dubious legacy, and an embarrassment generally.

    April 21, 2008 at 10:50 pm |
  9. Paul Warnow

    Is Hillary Clinton running for VP on the McCain ticket?

    She’s destroying the Democratic Party and only helping McCain.

    For Hillary Clinton to surpass Barack Obama in pledged delegates, she will have to win 63% of the votes and pledged delegates, in each and every state remaining.

    And for each and every state going forward, that she fails to win 63%, she will have to win increasing %’s, in each and every state remaining.

    At this time, it would take a miracle for Hillary Clinton to win 63% of the votes and pledged delegates in Pennsylvania.

    And it would take a greater miracle, for her to win a majority of the votes and pledged delegates, in the remaining state primaries.

    Consequently, her petty and divisive attacks against Barack Obama; are doing damage to her, Barack Obama, and the democratic party; and only helping John McCain.

    Hillary Clinton should withdraw if she fails to win by at least 20% of the votes and pledged delegates in Pennsylvania.

    April 21, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  10. Patsy

    It appears that most here are supporting Obama, and bashing Hillary. It is a problem to choose between the two of them. It's like voting for the lesser of two evils. I wish there had been a third choice of some quality. The thing about Whites voting for Obama because of "guilt" is an odd comment. Why should white people be guilty ?? We are not so bold as to hold a White Miss America Pagent, or think it is correct to have White History Month. Personally, I think Whites are being pushed around and we are all too worried about politically correctness to stand up for ourselves. After all.....We wouldn't want to seem racist. But if we did have White History Month..... OMG !! The screaming would never stop. Is Obama successfully running for President of the United States because he is Black ?? I think so. And all of us White people are too scared to offend anyone by saying it out loud. Am I NOT anti Black. I am personally hoping that Condoleezza Rice runs with McCain. Now that would be an unbeatable team !!!

    April 21, 2008 at 10:15 pm |
  11. June

    Is this a trick question??? Pennsylvania voted for BUSH not once but twice. It seems they have a history of making bad choices.

    April 21, 2008 at 9:54 pm |
  12. Kim, Florida

    Speaking from Florida, who has no say, the elderly in PA is just like the elderly in FL. Like the song says, Makes me ask that you make it like it was, make it like it was, the way it used to be.....They remember the surplus and the more than 50 cents SS raise, living off their interest from their bank accts, etc. and want to return to that if they can. The elderly here in FL overwhelming voted for HRC, and it would not have made a difference if Obama was here or not...SO, JUST LEAVE THEM TO THEIR MEMORIES

    The fact of the matter is this...no matter who gets the nomination, most likely will be Obama, he will absolutely need HRC supporters in order to beat McCain. So agree to disagree, and lets be civil, so that HRC supporters dont have a reason to stay home in November..because lost of homes, no health insurance, high gas prices, etc dont know what color you are...and dont care what color you are. We must win in November....democrats must win in NOVEMBER!!!

    April 21, 2008 at 9:42 pm |
  13. Tim, MS

    Why did Hillary let Obama out spend her in Pennsylvania by 3 to 1 then complaint? If she would have out spent Obama 3 to 1 would she have gotten the same results? Cutting her poll lead by more than 12 point seems to be money well spent.

    April 21, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  14. Michael, NC

    Mike-too true man.
    I know when I have talked politics with people I know, they have no real evidence as to why they are voting Obama. They don't know his policies, they don't know anything about his background. All they know is that he is an African American and that means our country will be a better place. Umm...news flash-it won't. I agree, Obama is an empty suit. He has no experience. Maybe in the future, but not now. Well put.

    April 21, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  15. Mike in NYC

    Kathy wrote:

    "They are still upset about Michelle Obama being unamerican..."

    "Un-American" is a woefully vague, easily politicized term. "Anti-white," on the other hand, is refreshingly clear and certainly applicable in this case.

    Oh-so sassy, oh-so feisty Michelle clearly has some unresolved issues concerning whites, whom she is determined to yank out of their privileged, paycheck to paycheck "comfort zone."

    April 21, 2008 at 8:56 pm |
  16. Larry

    I don't recall so much vitrol being spent when Mike Huckabee, would not give up until McCain finally got the required number of delegates.

    April 21, 2008 at 8:49 pm |
  17. Kathy, Chicago

    I polled my relatives from Pittsburg yesterday and here are their results: Aunt and Uncle 80 and 86 are for McCain ,Mom 78 is for Clinton and Pop 82, is undecided. They are still upset about Michelle Obama being unamerican, and they don't trust Obama. One thing that they all agree on is that they can't wait for the commercials to be over so they can turn their TV's back on!

    April 21, 2008 at 8:36 pm |
  18. Mike in NYC

    Peter wrote:

    "ok White America, we get it. You are so not racist that you are ready to vote a black man President. Unfortunately, he is not the right one at this time so stop trying to put the country in a mess.
    and yes, I am black. there I said it."

    I'm glad you said that.

    Most of Obama's white supporters are voting for him out of guilt. Misguided guilt, IMHO. And this includes the "Obamacans."

    Unfortunately, their way of "getting beyond" the issue of race involves demonstrating their moral superiority by supporting an unqualified empty suit.

    April 21, 2008 at 8:28 pm |
  19. Rob, Arvada, CO

    The only way Hillary has a chance at the whitehouse, is if she sides with McCain and flips her allegiance after dropping out of the DNC. The longer she stays in the race, the more she helps McCain, so she might as well join him now. Her trustworthiness has already slipped so much, how could it get worse if she switched sides?

    April 21, 2008 at 8:25 pm |
  20. Annie Kate

    It will be interesting to see if the nine point drop in Obama's national poll translates into any lost votes in Pennsylvania. It amazes me that after George Bush people want to put someone else in office that has very little experience. For any other job, unless its an entry level position, a certain degree of experience is required. The presidency – the single most important job in the country – is not an entry level job either Experience does count.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 21, 2008 at 8:10 pm |
  21. Daniel in Loganville, GA

    Gov Rendell already told you what the problem is that has not change in the past few weeks. I think the Sen has been able to gain some support but the MSM will not let the truth be heard, you guys are hell bent on filling the air ways with the side issues that may or may not have a ring of truth to it.

    April 21, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  22. Ed Fisher

    I'm a little dismayed reading that the older Pennsylvania citizens favor Clinton. My wife and many of our friends are seniors and haven't forgotten the Clntons of the past. Maybe the public is supposed to have a short memory but those who keep up todate with the news and are up on their history are going to vote for Mr Obama. He's delivered a truthful message of hope and is getting our vote. My wife and I are in our mid 70"s and for the first time in over 50 years we have registered as Democrats. Hopeful of a big surprise tomorrow.

    April 21, 2008 at 7:41 pm |
  23. Sharon

    I can also fit into the older PA catagory although I've not lived there for some time. What I find most interesting is that people readily admit they don't trust Clinton (and I'm one of those) yet they use her experience as an excuse to not vote for Obama (I'm not one of those). I prefer to have confidence in someone intelligent enough to surround him/herself with the right people to assist in making the right decisions – and we do have quite a few knowledgable, honest people around – as opposed to someone who pretends to know all and makes decisions regardless of others input. I've seen enough of the Clintons in the while house to satisfy me thanks very much.

    April 21, 2008 at 7:00 pm |
  24. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    Has anyone noticed that in the last 6 weeks, Obama's PA polling numbers have stayed pretty consistant in the low 40's. But as Clinton's poll numbers have changed, so have the undecided. I think those "undecided" will play a big role in this PA primary.

    April 21, 2008 at 5:47 pm |
  25. Rob

    why do the media feel they have to keep HRC's boat afloat? the question about Obamas spending is simple. You don't think Hillary would be spending it if she had it? It's the popular support that allows Obama to spend – which mostly is to respond to HRC's attacks. If she wasn't attacking he wouldn't be spending but that is all she has left. Seniors cling to the past that's where they are most comfortable and unfortunately they are a large demographic in Penn. I would hope that they are past race. Again they trust Hillary for whatever reason and believe her attacks.

    April 21, 2008 at 5:35 pm |
  26. Richard, Sioux City, IA

    Anderson,

    The negative attacks especially from Hillary, is not helping at all and that is why Barack will WIN tomorrow (51/49) and that will put everything to rest. YES, YES, YES HE CAN!!!!!

    RSA

    April 21, 2008 at 5:18 pm |
  27. Sarah

    My family is still in PA and it will be very bad for this country, no matter whom the Dems nominate.

    April 21, 2008 at 5:09 pm |
  28. Lon Ivey

    Hi Anderson: after listening to all the flack (ad nauseum) about Rev. Wright and the terrible comments he made, I decided to actually find out who he was. It turns out that this monster is a former marine and navy corpsman who treated Lyndon Johnson at Bethesda Naval Hospital after the former president's surgery! But obviously those things don't matter, he offended our sense of patriotism! Our recent history is littered with the bodies of prophets. I guess killing messengers is a lot easier than dealing with the messeges they deliver. There is scant hope that this will ever reach the air but I respect your integrity and thought you should know. Lon from Long Island!

    April 21, 2008 at 5:07 pm |
  29. Paul Warnow

    Is Hillary Clinton running for VP on the McCain ticket?

    She’s destroying the Democratic Party and only helping McCain.

    For Hillary Clinton to surpass Barack Obama in pledged delegates, she will have to win 63% of the votes and pledged delegates, in each and every state remaining.

    And for each and every state going forward, that she fails to win 63%, she will have to win increasing %’s, in each and every state remaining.

    At this time, it would take a miracle for Hillary Clinton to win 63% of the votes and pledged delegates in Pennsylvania.

    And it would take a greater miracle, for her to win a majority of the votes and pledged delegates, in the remaining state primaries.

    Consequently, her petty and divisive attacks against Barack Obama; are doing damage to her, Barack Obama, and the democratic party; and only helping John McCain.

    Hillary Clinton should withdraw if she fails to win 63% of the votes and pledged delegates in Pennsylvania.

    April 21, 2008 at 4:59 pm |
  30. Beverly

    Clinton hipe over and over again ... her having 8 years of experience in the White House is just hipe. I am sure that she made a great hostess when people came to visit the White House. But where does being a great hostess give you the expierence necessary to run a country. No policy making in that. People should not be afraid of change. JFK was young when he ran. People then did not know him but the gamble paid off.

    Who are the clintson supporters really wanting Hillary or is it Bill again. The people of Philly should not look back but look toward the future. They should ask themselves whether they have progressed by walking backward. Educantion, food, Jobs, fuel and war the is what is important. Please don't make the same mistake by being afraid.

    April 21, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  31. Michael, NC

    I don't see money and funds being as big a deal as many people are making it. Hillbillary and Obama both have large sums, Obama just isn't taking any from the fed. I believe any candidate can SAY they will fund welfare and SS and health care, but will they? Nobody knows, especially with the economy trickling downward and SS taking the back seat. I believe Obama is inexperienced, Hillbillary is a "truth stretcher", and McCain doesn't know how to control our spending. I don't feel a strong connection or positive outlook for any of the candidates.

    oh yea-thank you peter. Glad to see someone sees through the "blinding light" of hope Obama casts over his supporters. Give him four more years, then consider him.

    Solomon-I don't know where you pulled that conspiracy theory from...

    April 21, 2008 at 4:14 pm |
  32. Slater

    "Shelly thinks Clinton knows the ins and outs of Washington and she likes that. Arnie says “with experience comes wisdom” and he simply thinks Clinton has more of it."

    DITTO!

    April 21, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  33. Ellen Kenny

    My family is from the Wilkes-Barre area of Pennsylvania. My grandfather died in the coal mines and my father and uncle left the area in the late 50's because these same coal mines were shutting down and there were no jobs. Less than 20 years later, the steel industry of Bethlehem, Allentown and Pittsburgh followed suit and were shut down, as well. The 70's and 80's past and nothing was done to return jobs to these areas. . . great family towns where I would like my grandchildren to grow. Bill Clinton was President through most of the 90's and nothing was done then either. today, Wilkes-Barre, Kingston, Scranton, Bethlehem and Allentown still cryout for good companies to locate there and provide residents with middle-income jobs. (1) Since Bill Clinton's administration neglected to address the needs of Pennsylvania back in the 90's . . . and (2) since Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to run for senator in the state of New York, rather than Pennsylvania (if she cared about Pennsylvania so much and if Scranton is her hometown, why didn't she run for Senator of Pennsylania and challenge Rick Santorium, the way Bob Casey did?) . . .my hope is that Pennsylvania won't be FOOLED by the Clinton machine in their efforts to convince us that they care about us. I believe their actions have spoken as to where we fall on their priority list and that there priorities are elsewhere. For this reason, I also believe that our best hope to have our concerns addressed is by electing Barack Obama for President. As the old adage goes: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me."

    April 21, 2008 at 3:37 pm |
  34. Taj

    Joseph Kowalski
    Thank you very much for all 3 elderly ladies in your family over 70 voting for Obama. I am for Obama (1st choice) or Hillary (2nd). The 3 ladies are certainly smart. Better days are almost here again. No American president in the last 40 years has screwed up this great nation so badly than GW. He has destroyed the of American dream.
    We need Good medical care, SS, Jobs, food & gas at affordable prices for young people & prosperity at home (not necessarily at the expense of others). Let's do it.

    April 21, 2008 at 3:21 pm |
  35. Peter

    ok White America, we get it. You are so not racist that you are ready to vote a black man President.Unfortunately, he is not the right one at this time so stop trying to put the country in a mess.
    and yes, I am black. there I said it.

    April 21, 2008 at 2:51 pm |
  36. James E. Ward

    One point often overlooked... The media highlights Obama's spending and not put
    it in the prospective of his fighting the political machines of the Mayor of Philadelphia & the Governor. They just refer to his spending.

    April 21, 2008 at 2:34 pm |
  37. T.Solomon

    The more I watch this coverage of the primarys the more i see the bias attemps it makes in who it favors I dont care who wins but it interesting to see who the news stations favor by its coverage and thats hillary the reports say that she is being out spent so all the news stations inhance their coverage of her to make up the difference. dont think the american people are so blind they dont see what is going on. the news should be fair in its coverage and becuse its not thats why she is losing. and the big picture is cnn will lose its watchers and that is what i was. good by....

    April 21, 2008 at 2:28 pm |
  38. Taj

    People in 50's, 60's, 70's and onwards are stuck up people. Given another chance they will vote for GW. Remember the Red states? Voted for Bush & screwed up the country. Hillary appears to be OK, but she lies thru her teeth. Can we really trust her? To me big question is Universal Health Care, SS, education, jobs & prosperity to US.

    April 21, 2008 at 2:11 pm |
  39. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    Yes, it's true many older people in Pennsylvania are for Clinton, but there are many opposed to them also. The women in my family have been wanting a female President for years, but when it comes to Clinton, even my 79 year old mother and her two sisters, ages 76 and 71, are voting for Obama. They don't trust Hillary Clinton and neither do I.

    The vote is going to be close in Pennsylvania and I'm hoping Obama surges ahead. The last thing this country needs is a continuation of the Bush-Clinton dynasty.

    April 21, 2008 at 2:11 pm |