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Opinion: Pennsylvania: Tidal wave or big yawn in Democratic race

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Did the Pennsylvania primary make no difference at all, or did it change the course of the race for the Democratic nomination?

The answer is in the eye of the spinner.

Aides to Hillary Clinton said this morning that the ‘tide is turning’ because of her win.

‘By providing fresh evidence that Hillary is the candidate best positioned to beat John McCain in the fall,’ campaign spokesman Phil Singer said in a widely circulated memo, ‘the Pennsylvania primary is a turning point in the nominating contest.’

Barack Obama, Singer continued, made an unprecedented investment in television advertising, but he ‘again failed to win a state that will be vital to a Democratic victory in November and spurred new questions about his ability to beat John McCain.’

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Over at Camp Obama, though, the results were getting the equivalent of a big, loud yawn, at least in public.

Campaign manager David Plouffe noted that Clinton’s win did not substantially change the pledged delegate lead Obama has over her.

‘She obviously in these remaining nine contests needs to win with big margins,’ Plouffe told reporters.

Essentially, he argued, the campaign moves on to the May 6 primaries in North Carolina and Indiana without a shift in relative position.

‘We don’t believe the structure of the race is going to change fundamentally,’ Plouffe said.

Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some concern ...

within the Obama brain trust. Again, for public consumption, Obama chief strategist David Axelrod (above) sought today to discount the long-range importance of his candidate’s failure to garner much support from white, blue-collar workers.

‘Let’s understand,’ Axelrod said on NPR, ‘that the ... white working class has gone to the Republican nominee for many elections....’

Right -- and the GOP has won five of the last seven presidential votes. So with their eye on the White House prize, it’s unlikely that in private deliberations Obama and his top aides are as nonchalant about the white working-class vote as Axelrod sounded today.

Indeed, among the reams of copy published this morning on the Pennsylvania primary, we were most inrigued by a tidbit in a New York Times story. Obama strategists, Jeff Zeleny wrote, ‘immediately began studying the results — and intended to interview voters in a postmortem — to see what kept them from supporting Mr. Obama.’

That would have been an even better idea after the March 4 Ohio primary, but better late than never.

-- Christi Parson and Don Frederick

Christi Parsons writes for the Swamp of the Chicago Tribune’s Washington bureau.


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