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Obama Looks To Phila. Suburbs As Key To Pa. Victory

This story was written by Emily Schultheis, Daily Pennsylvanian

As go the Philadelphia suburbs, so goes Pennsylvania - or at least, that's what presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama seems to believe.

With a town hall meeting held at Radnor Middle School in Wayne last Saturday, Obama signaled his dedication to winning not only the heavily-Democratic city of Philadelphia over presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, but the surrounding counties as well.

"If you win big coming out of Philadelphia and win the counties around [the city], you've got over 40 percent of the votes in the state," said political analyst and St. Joseph's University history professor Randall Miller. "[The suburbs] are critical to the success of the Obama campaign, and for that reason they are also significant to the McCain campaign."

Obama won the city of Philadelphia in the April 22 primary, but lost Montgomery and Bucks counties to his opponent, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He won in Delaware and Chester counties.

"The suburban counties had a lot to do with Sen. Clinton's victories in the state," said Penn political science professor Jack Nagel. "That would suggest that [Obama] needs to do some work."

While the Philadelphia suburbs have voted for the Democratic candidates in the past several elections, only two of the four counties - Bucks and Montgomery counties - have more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Because the areas surrounding Philadelphia are "very much in play" in the general election, Penn political science professor Rogers Smith said, the candidates will focus their attention here during the remaining months before the general election in November.

Obama's town hall in Wayne was part of a two-week economic tour across the country. While the candidate answered questions on topics ranging from health care to the war in Iraq, he focused his remarks on the current economic climate and the "fundamental differences" between him and McCain.

"For the last eight years, we've failed to keep the fundamental promise that if you work hard, you can live your own version of the American Dream," he said. "Instead, people are working harder and harder just to get by."

Obama focused largely on the issue of rising gas prices and their effects on American families. "High gas prices aren't just an annoyance; they are becoming a crisis," he said.

As for McCain's proposed gas tax holiday, Obama said, it is "nothing more than a Washington stunt."

This focus on the economy is part of an effort by the Obama campaign to win the working-class demographic, one Clinton had a significant advantage with during the primaries.

"I don't think it will be quite as intense a battleground as it was during the long Pennsylvania primary, but we'll definitely continue to have the campaigns focused on the Philadelphia suburbs," Smith said.

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