James Forsyth James Forsyth

Obama needs to knock Hillary out — and quick

Hillary Clinton’s big win in the Pennsylvania primary has drawn attention to four main weaknesses in Barack Obama’s appeal, says James Forsyth

Hillary Clinton did not have to wait until 3 a.m. for the call telling her that she had won the Pennsylvania primary. Within an hour of the polls closing, the news networks had declared her the winner and by the end of the night she had secured a double-digit lead, handily beating the spread set for her by the media.

Pennsylvania was always going to be Hillary’s kind of state; its demographics play to her strengths. There are a smaller percentage of the groups with whom Barack Obama is strongest — blacks and college graduates — and an above average number of over 65s, with whom Clinton generally does well. On top of that, the median household income is only a little more than $46,000 a year, making the state receptive to Clinton’s economic message.

For this reason, a win wasn’t enough for Hillary — she had to win big, and that she did, despite Obama outspending her by more than two to one in the two biggest ‘media markets’ in the state.

Of course, Obama remains the overwhelming favourite to be the Democratic nominee. His lead among pledged delegates is, even after Tuesday, insurmountable. But his campaign now has four major problems. First, the protracted primary campaign is making Obama a weaker general election candidate. In the six weeks since the last set of contests, three stories have gained prominence that will cause Obama significant problems. There’s the Reverend Wright affair, then there’s Obama’s comment about how small-town Americans cling to God and guns and last, his connection to the former terrorist Bill Ayers. Each comment has undercut Obama’s national appeal.

Jeremiah Wright is Obama’s friend and pastor; the title of Obama’s political manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, is taken from a Wright sermon.

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