I'm sitting in a hotel room here in Pittsburgh, and the local news tells me that Wednesday night's debate has Sen. Barack Obama rattled.
He muffed his latest explanation of his recent remarks on small-town America. He said last night: "The point I was making (last week at a private San Francisco fundraiser) was that when people feel like Washington's not listening to them, when they're promised year after year, decade after decade, that their economic situation is going to change, and it doesn't, then politically, they end up focusing on those things that are constant, like religion. They end up feeling 'This is a place where I can find some refuge. This is something that I can count on.'"
I doubt that churchgoing small-towners will be satisified with that. They worship for affirmative spiritual reasons — "in good times and in bad times," as Clinton quickly pointed out last night. They don't think "politically" about the importance of worship. And, most importantly, they don't merely "end up" worshipping.
For the first 45 minutes of the debate on Wednesday, Clinton was relatively unscathed from the fire ABC inquisitors blew at Obama. When they asked why Obama didn't wear an American flag pin, I guffawed and replayed it over and over again on TIVO.
Clinton is leading by 48.1 percent to 42.1 percent in the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls here in Pennsylvania. Obama's performance in the debate may have cemented the voters' concerns, or his comments on policy could have gained some supporters (if people stayed awake that late). Fellow Seattle Politicore blogger Laura Mansfield and I will be crossing the state, from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and everywhere in between, to seek answers to some of these questions in the coming days.
The last time Pennsylvania mattered in a primary vote was the decade I was born: in the 1980s. Although I was born in Bellefonte, Penn., I've never felt a political connection to the state, since I moved when I was four, so unfortunately my "roots" are worthless. But I have more than 10 relatives' worth of connections and the nicest travel partner ever, so we'll have no trouble meeting both major players and the common (bitter?) people of Pennsylvania.