Hillary Clinton is playing her PA roots to the hilt – reminding voters in the NE part of the state that, “my father was from Scranton.” And speaking before the AFL-CIO convention in Philadelphia Tuesday, she couldn’t resist comparing herself to Rocky Balboa, the archetypical underdog who has the drive and the heart to go the distance against a superior opponent:

[W]hen I say I’ll fight for you, I’ll fight for you. I know how to fight for you and that’s exactly what I will do throughout this campaign. … I know what it’s like to stumble. I know what it means to get knocked down. But I’ve never stayed down. I never will. … Senator Obama says he’s getting tired of the campaign. His supporters say they want it to end. 

Could you imagine if Rocky Balboa had gotten half way up those Art Museum stairs and said, “Well, I guess that’s about far enough?” 

That’s not the way it works. … [W]hen it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up.  

The only problem with the analogy is that Rocky lost the fight to Apollo Creed (video link) in a split decision. It’s the 13th Round and Barack Obama’s been blocking Hillary’s punches so she hasn’t knocked him down even once. Meanwhile, he’s going to try to keep dancing out of her reach so she stays behind on points (the delegate count). The Washington Post sees a “shifting landscape” in PA:

[T]he registration of 102,000 new voters and 133,000 party switchers as Democrats [is] a possible indication that Obama’s efforts to register college students, Republicans and independents may be paying off.

To win in the state, Obama will probably need to run up big totals in and around Philadelphia, in the Lehigh Valley and in south-central Pennsylvania. …

On his tour, Obama has infused his stump speech with references to the economic woes that have beset communities across this state. At town hall meetings in Wilkes-Barre and Scranton, Obama spoke of “wages and income that have flat-lined. You are paying more for everything from college to health care to a gallon of milk to a gallon of gas. It’s hard to make ends meet.”

But while Hillary is a brawler, Obama may have too much finesse for his own good.  As New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd notes:

His strenuous and inadvertently hilarious efforts to woo working-class folk in Pennsylvania have only made him seem more effete. Keeping his tie firmly in place, he genteelly sipped his pint of Yuengling beer at Sharky’s sports cafe in Latrobe and bowled badly in Altoona. Challenging Obama to a bowl-off, Hillary kindly offered to “spot him two frames.”

The Stiletto spent part of her teen years in the vicinity of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton (the three cities sorta meld into each other, and are often referred to in the same breath), and knows the people of the area well. Hillary’s going to make this a bare-knuckle fight. Here is what Obama is up against:

“We need her,” Barbara Vizzini, a 46-year-old equipment operator from Middletown, said before Hillary Clinton took the stage at a rally in Fairless Hills Monday night. “If we don’t get her, we’re going to end up with John McCain.”

What about Barack Obama? Why couldn’t he beat the Republican nominee?

“The race thing,” interjected her colleague Daniel Kirner, 52, from Tullytown.

“I mean, a president named Barack?” agreed Ms. Vizzini.

Hillary Clinton has spent the past few days courting the white, blue-collar workers who are most receptive to her no-nonsense message of hard work and experience. They also happen to be the people most suspicious of Mr. Obama. … [E]choing Pennsylvania governor and Hillary surrogate Ed Rendell, they think he will have problems with some white voters. Others think he’s an unreliable upstart who will stumble when it counts, or worse, that he’s simply a fraud. …

“She’s got this one locked,” said Mary Yates, a 67-year-old retired worker in a chemical factory. “No Muslim is going to be president. No drug addict. If Hillary isn’t the one, everyone I know will vote for John McCain.”

Her campaign may not be at liberty to say so, but that sort of sentiment – factually misguided though it may be–is just what the Clinton campaign needs right now.

The superdelegates just might be persuaded to give Hillary a TKO if she wins this round in PA – another large general election swing state – on April 22nd. As Dowd puts it: “[T]he whole point of a presidential race is to win. … The winner wins, even if it’s only by a fraction of a percentage point or one Supreme Court justice. Winning has no margin of error, as the Democrats should have learned by now.”

BTW: The real Rocky – Sylvester Stallone – is in McCain’s corner (third item). 

Note: The Stiletto writes about politics and other stuff at The Stiletto Blog.

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