I never got a chance to see that debate last night. I think there's an ordinance here in Boston that when the Red Sox are playing, every TV in every bar must be tuned into the game. Even more so when the Sox are playing the Yankees as they were last night. Well, I got to see enough of the debate clips that I'm glad I missed it.
I just spent the last hour hanging with my counterpart for Environment Pennsylvania. Even though he's based in Philadelphia, he spends a lot of time in the state capital, Harrisburg, as well as Pittsburgh. He told me he could tell me hundreds of instances of Pennsylvanians who went from the undecided column or even soft support of Hillary to deciding to vote for Obama because of the bitter comments. Instead of feeling offended, these people felt that someone actually got it and was listening to them.
You could look at these second and third-hand accounts as unreliable anecdotal evidence but recent polling backs 'em up. According to a Zogby poll released today, 60 versus 29 percent of PA voters were more likely to agree with Obama's assessment of their bitterness than with Hillary's assertion that he's out of touch. That's a 31% margin - enormous. While Zogby polls have not been the best indicators of primary election outcomes this year, the sheer size of this margin shows that, yet again, Obama's frankness attracts voters, while Hillary's attacks on that frankness backfire. I'm sure Obama still regrets the statement - he really should have framed the discussion of this very real bitterness in a different way- but overall the episode should serve as positive reinforcement for the kind of direct honesty that is antithetical to Hillary's old school politics.
Updated prediction: By the way, the same Zogby poll shows a statistical dead heat in PA - Hillary 45-Obama 44. I'm not going to get carried away and predict an Obama victory, but I think there's a very good chance she's going to win it by less than 5%. I'm guessing that'll drive more superdelegates Obama's way (he's only behind in superdelegates by 22 or so) and lead to a small but significant Obama victory in Indiana- along with a landslide victory in North Carolina- 0n May 6. Then it'll be over.