Pa. new front line as Clinton, Obama fight on

Presidential rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama began all-out Pennsylvania campaigns Wednesday in the face of Democratic nomination rules that have left it impossible for either to win the nomination without support from superdelegates.

That means Obama and Clinton bring their seasoned but fatigued and donation-hungry campaigns to the nation’s sixth most populous state in a quest for the momentum that comes with winning.

That momentum could sway superdelegates, who can vote for whomever they please, and bolster one side or the other in a series of arguments over potentially decisive issues:

“It’s a perfect dilemma,” said G. Terry Madonna, director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin and Marshall College. “Obama can’t reach 2,025 and she can’t overtake him. Pennsylvania becomes important not because it can deliver a coup de grace but because they want the momentum coming out of the state. This is now a very complex problem.”

“We can expect a full-court press,” he added. “Neither candidate can afford now to let Pennsylvania slide.”

A prepared statement Wednesday by Gov. Ed Rendell, a Clinton supporter, emphasized the word “momentum” in the first sentence and demonstrated the importance of what it represents.

“Last night made clear that there has been a momentum shift in this race,” the governor said.

Centre Hall Democrat Ruth Rudy, a Clinton supporter, said Wednesday that superdelegates such as herself should support whomever their constituents support.

Rudy, a former state House member, is a Pennsylvania superdelegate because she is a former president of the National Federation of Democratic Women. She said women are her constituents.

“I’m supporting a women’s group,” Rudy said Wednesday from her Florida vacation home. “It’s the women of America who are putting votes up for Hillary.”

On the Penn State campus Wednesday night, about 60 students met to plan registration drives after returning from next week’s spring break.

“Pennsylvania can decide this election,” sophomore Michael Stewart, president of Penn State Students for Obama, told the crowd. “I think it’s up to use the decide which way it goes.”

In State College on Wednesday, borough Manager Tom Fountaine said he understands that the Obama campaign has expressed interest in renting the former Verizon building at 224 S. Allen St.

Stewart said the location will serve as Obama headquarters.

The borough last year bought the property for $750,000. A nonprofit group would like to use the spot eventually for a children’s museum.

For now, though, the building remains empty. The borough has not marketed its availability. Fountaine said the borough “had not made any definite plans, one way or another,” about whether to write any short-term leases for the site.

Fountaine said he did not see any potential problems in writing a lease for a political campaign.

“Any negotiation we have would be the same with a political party as it would be with any other party who would be interested in the space,” Fountaine said.

In Bellefonte on Wednesday, new voter data released by Centre County showed that Democratic registrations have swelled by 832 new voters since early January, compared with an increase of 129 Republicans.

The shift, apparently for the first time in recent history, reduced the Republican share of the registered voters to below 44 percent, however slightly, and increased the Democratic share to almost 39 percent. The ranks of no-affiliation voters decreased by only 103.

March 24 is the last day to register or change registration to vote in Pennsylvania’s closed primary elections.