Clinton surges ahead in Pennsylvania – but has mountain to climb

Hillary Clinton is racing ahead of Barack Obama in the polls for the forthcoming Pennsylvania primary, but she still faces nearly insurmountable odds as she tries to wrest the Democratic nomination away from him.

Mrs Clinton has doubled her lead over her opponent with more than four weeks to go before the Pennsylvania vote, but her hopes of becoming a presidential contender largely depend on her opponent self-destructing between now and the end of the primary season in June.

For the first time in weeks Mrs Clinton has also taken a significant lead in a national Gallup poll, reflecting voters' worries about Mr Obama's close links to his controversial spiritual mentor, the Rev Jeremiah Wright. The infighting among Democrats and the recent negative tone of their campaign has meanwhile benefited the Republicans, with a Reuters/Zogby poll showing John McCain leading Mrs Clinton by three (a statistical tie) and Mr Obama by six points.

Mrs Clinton's strong showing in the Pennsylvania polls gives her a 51 to 35 per cent lead among likely Democratic voters. Last February, the same Franklin poll put the gap at 44 to 37 per cent, less than half what it is today. Yet another poll gave Mrs Clinton a larger 56-30 lead and saw her attracting 27 per cent of the state's important black vote.

The prospect of Mr Obama's campaign imploding seems more remote since Tuesday, when he gave a much-admired speech in Philadelphia about America's racial divisions. He distanced himself from comments made by his mentor, Mr Wright, who has suggested that blacks should damn America for continuing to mistreat them. In 35 minutes, Mr Obama turned the controversy over Mr Wright's inflammatory remarks into an appeal for a more honest debate on race relations.

Liberal commentators, among them Clinton supporters, quickly praised the speech and there was a palpable sense that Mr Obama had brought his campaign back from the brink, even as right-wing commentators denounced his words as insufficient. Mrs Clinton's advisers wisely remained silently on the sidelines of the row, but they still hope that the uproar will rattle the confidence of voters and superdelegates in Mr Obama's campaign.

Superdelegates are the key constituency made up of Democratic Party grandees and elected officials and the Clinton campaign has been discreetly lobbying them to switch sides. Superdelegates are free to decide which candidate to back at the nominating convention and loss of their support could wipe out Mr Obama's delegate advantage.

That contest is finely balanced, with Mr Obama leading his opponent by about 150 delegates. To secure the presidential nomination a candidate needs to win 2,025 delegates.

Mrs Clinton's campaign is also hamstrung by her defeats last month. Senior Democrats say her ability to snatch the nomination from Mr Obama now depends on her winning the overall popular vote when the contests end in June, thereby raising enough questions about his electability to persuade the superdelegates to come to her side. Yesterday, Mr Obama appeared confident that, by that time, he would still hold the lead in the popular vote, as well as delegates from the state contests. He backed a suggestion that the superdelegates then hold a meeting to decide which candidate to back, ensuring the bickering does not go all the way to the August convention. Mr Obama now leads by 700,000 votes out of 26 million cast and 12 million people have a voice in the remaining primaries and caucuses. Mr Obama accepts there is nothing to stop a tenacious Mrs Clinton taking her battle all the way to the floor of the Denver convention on 25 August – in the hope that his campaign will implode along the way – but that will leave little time for the winning candidate to organise and fight the presidential election in November.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Nick Clegg on the campaign trail in Glasgow on Wednesday; he says education is his top priority
peopleNick Clegg remains optimistic despite dismal Lib Dem poll ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Déjà vu: David Tennant returns to familiar territory with Anna Gunn (‘Breaking Bad’)
tvReview: Something is missing in Gracepoint, and it's not just the familiar names
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?