Obama Seeks to Close Gap in Pennsylvania

Sen. Barack Obama storms across Pennsylvania in a final effort to catch Sen. Hillary Clinton and win Tuesday's Democratic primary. Can he grasp another chance to close out his rival?

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

There are just hours left before Pennsylvanians vote in their presidential primary. It's been a long break between contests, six weeks since the last primary.

In the Democratic race in Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton's lead over Barack Obama has been reduced to single digits according to many polls. And the candidates are making last-minute pitches from the stump and over the airwaves.

Hillary Clinton released this ad today.

(Soundbite of campaign ad)

Unidentified Man #1: With two wars, oil prices skyrocketing, and an economy in crisis - Harry Truman said it best, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Who do you think has what it takes?

Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York; Presidential Candidate): I'm Hillary Clinton and I approve this message.

BLOCK: And later in the day, the Obama campaign responded.

(Soundbite of campaign ad)

Unidentified Man #2: Who has what it takes to really bring change? To finally take on the special interests, not take their money? Who made the right judgment about opposing the war, and had the courage and character to speak honestly about it...

BLOCK: Both candidates spent today campaigning furiously across the state in an effort to demonstrate momentum both in Pennsylvania and in the national contest for the nomination.

NPR's Don Gonyea and David Greene have been traveling with the candidates. And we start with Don Gonyea, who's covering Senator Obama. And Don, tell us about Senator Obama's last day campaigning.

DON GONYEA: Well, I'm speaking to you from Blue Bell, Pennsylvania - this tiny little town not too far from Philadelphia, and he did a very low-key and unusually small town hall meeting here, with about 30 people, and most of it focused on domestic issues.

But later today, there's a large town hall meeting in McKeesport, which is in the Pittsburgh area, and a big rally in Pittsburgh tonight. He's also doing some nontraditional media today. He is taping the Rachael Ray Show. She, of course, is the cable TV cooking diva. And then he's taping something, a message for something called "WWE Raw." I don't know if you know what that is, Melissa. But WWE stands for...

BLOCK: I think it has something to do with wrestling.

GONYEA: World Wresting Entertainment. And he's doing Jon Stewart's Daily Show. So, from the sublime to the ridiculous and back again, I guess.

BLOCK: Don, but Barack Obama has generally been running behind Hillary Clinton in the polls in Pennsylvania, but he has narrowed the gap. What's he doing to try to really narrow the margin there?

GONYEA: Well again, the focus is really mostly on the economy over this past weekend. And what he's doing is he's talking in greater specificity about individuals he's meeting who are sharing stories with him of their own economic worries. He's talking about how people have more money going out each month because of higher food and higher gasoline bills and less money coming in. Maybe because their wages are stagnant. He's also, though, taking a very tough line, as tough a line as he's ever taken on Hillary Clinton, painting her as a candidate who has decided that the only way she can win is to go negative and to tear him down.

BLOCK: Barack Obama did say in an interview that he is not predicting a win in Pennsylvania tomorrow. A lot of this seems to be about managing expectations.

GONYEA: It certainly is. What they would like is for it to be close in Pennsylvania, close enough to have it be all but a victory. And they do want to demonstrate that they've done well here, that they've done better than perhaps people, people thought they would, they talk about how Hillary Clinton had a 20-point lead at one point. So, they just want to come out of here with it being as close as possible and they are looking ahead to the next dates on May 6th -North Carolina and Indiana, where they expect to do well on both places.

BLOCK: Okay, NPR's Don Gonyea with the Obama campaign in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, outside Philadelphia. Don, thanks so much.

GONYEA: All right. Thank you.

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