Let's face it. Pennsylvania is Hillary Clinton's to lose.
If the primary were held today, Clinton would win by double digits. If the primary were held next week, same thing. Like neighboring Ohio, where Clinton won 55 percent to Barack Obama's 45 percent, the population tends to be older, whiter, less affluent and less educated than the national average. These are blue collar and Reagan Democrats, concerned more about the economy, health care and other kitchen table issues where Clinton finds lots of traction. If these factors weren't enough to give heartburn to the Obama campaign, then there is the fact that it's a closed primary and the coup de grace: Governor Ed Rendell, the Keystone State's popular governor and former mayor of Philadelphia, is one of Clinton's loudest cheerleaders. The state's political infrastructure will be at her disposal. Clinton will be a formidable foe.
Formidable does not mean insurmountable. While the professional chattering class and the A-list bloggers debate the significance of a "win" in Pennsylvania, there are seven long weeks until the April 22nd primary and the Obama campaign can recalibrate with some lessons (hopefully) learned from Ohio. Here are the top ten things the Obama campaign can do to try to close the gap in the Keystone State ... or at least close the gap to single digits.
10. Drop the tour concerts. Packing 20,000 people into stadiums is incredibly dramatic, and, speaking as a television news producer, it's an incredible visual. But the stadium crowds did not translate into votes in Ohio or Texas, or umm, California, of all places. Book fewer events at stadiums and more Elks' Halls and high school gymnasiums. It's an informal, relaxed setting and perfect for sensible, older voters who do not want to (or cannot) stand in line for hours. Why should they? He needs their vote.
9. Play the "Pied Piper." Do you remember how Hillary Clinton campaigned in Nevada? She went door to door for hours, and, pressed hands in many of the big casinos. It's all about retail politics, shaking hands and knocking on doors. Imagine if the Obama campaign told the press that they could follow him for a day, but, couldn't ask questions. Better yet, imagine the television news sound bites from the voters who were overjoyed to answer a ringing doorbell and discover it was Barack Obama. This would be an Oprah moment.
8. NAFTA. Neither Clinton nor Obama was in the Senate when this treaty was approved and neither one will change much if they were to win the White House. Unfortunately, the Obama campaign has been slow to get in front of their bona fides on the story behind the story on the campaign rhetoric. Clinton hammered Obama on this in Ohio. Expect more fireworks in Pennsylvania.
7. Health Care. Wall Street Journal exit polls show Clinton won more than half of voters "who put health care atop their priority list." In the long term, Obama's health care plan would be more acceptable to Republicans, but, Clinton's will attract more voters on principle. Democrats who are concerned about health care will not be swayed by Republican talking points. In other words, as Ezra Klein suggests, drop the "Harry and Louise" mailers.
6. Commander-in-chief. The "3AM" red phone ad was panned across the netroots but scored a home run in Ohio and Texas. Pennsylvania also has lots of veterans, military installations and older voters concerned about security. Obama is a Foreign Relations Subcommittee chair, why doesn't he hold some hearings, talk more about foreign events, Venezuela and Colombia, etc, in stump speeches. Speaking of that 3AM call...
5. Susan Rice. Obama's senior foreign policy advisor says neither he nor Hillary "are ready to have that 3AM call." Rice was the Assistant Secretary for African Affairs at the State Department under Bill Clinton and foreign policy guru Steve Johnson notes, "We don't know for sure what Barack or Hillary would do with a "3 a.m." phone call, but we don't have to wonder about Susan Rice. She sits on her hands doing nothing.
4. Please Return Lynn Sweet's Phone Calls. Put Rezko behind the campaign and (finally) grant an interview with the Sun-Times reporter. 'Nuff said.
3. Don't Go Negative. If the principal message of Obama's campaign is "hope" and "change", there is no point aggressively going "negative" on Hillary Clinton. It doesn't work, the Republicans have been doing it for years, and, it bolsters her message. Plus, the Clinton campaign plays this game so much better.
2. The City of Brotherly Love. Obama needs a major turnout in Philadelphia. Mayor Michael Nutter, who is black, is a Hillary Clinton man, but the city's "heavy concentration of African-Americans, liberals and college students lead most observers to view it as Obama Country."
The number one thing the Obama campaign should do to take Pennsylvania? Hillary said "Meet me in Ohio," Obama can say, "Meet Me on ..."
1. The Main Line. The Obama-Clinton battle for Pennsylvania will be fought in the collar counties around Philadelphia, the primarily white and upscale voters on the Main Line. Fertile country for Obama but the wild card is Gov. Ed Rendell. These are independent, politically active voters, but, Rendell has worked these townships for decades ...