Pennsylvania heats up for primary

PHILADELPHIA — The 2008 presidential primary campaign heated up this week in Pennsylvania’s two largest cities, where both Democratic candidates plan to do well in the April 22 vote. There are 158 delegates at stake and 20 superdelegates.

In Pittsburgh, Gov. Ed Rendell campaigned with Hillary Clinton over the weekend.

Meanwhile here in Philadelphia a grassroots campaign for Barack Obama was under way. On Saturday morning more than 150 volunteers representing the city’s diverse population filled the “Northwest for Obama” office. Dozens of volunteers from Washington, D.C., New York and the nearby suburbs joined the Philadelphians as they went out into the communities to register voters in the northwest area of the city.

“On Saturday we registered 324 people and on Sunday an additional 268 people were registered,” said Jordon Dillard, one of the campaign office managers. “Other volunteers knocked on 2,500 doors. Back at the office 500 telephone calls were made. It was a team effort.”

Newly elected Mayor Michael Nutter supports Clinton and pressured ward leaders to follow his lead, but it didn’t work. One ward leader, Vernon Price, is helping to run the “Northwest for Obama” office along with Tahria Amatarrah and Zakia Abdul-Raheem. “This is an exciting and historical experience,” said Price.

A few days earlier, Mayor Nutter and Gov. Rendell stood beside Clinton on the stage at Temple University’s McGonigle Hall here, waving to a cheering crowd of supporters.

The next day Michelle Obama was in the Philadelphia suburbs addressing crowds in Abington, Ardmore and Villanova. These are towns with few African Americans. She focused on the challenges of working mothers and the working class in general.

In another part of Philadelphia, at the Laborers Local 332 union hall, 200 volunteers met to organize and strategize for Obama. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-Pa.) spoke to the group as they chanted “Yes we can! Yes we can!”

Meanwhile, Republican candidate John McCain spoke to a rally of supporters outside Philadelphia at the Springfield Country Club, vowing to carry Pennsylvania in November. The state’s Republicans are watching from the sidelines hoping that Clinton and Obama will destroy each other, said a McCain supporter. The corporate media was working hard all weekend attacking Obama’s former pastor for “unpatriotic rhetoric.”

Labor in Philadelphia is divided. The national American Federation of Teachers and AFSCME (State, County and Municipal Employees) endorsed Hillary Clinton early in the campaign. The Clinton campaign headquarters here is located in the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers offices, but PFT members are dividing their support between Clinton and Obama. There are also AFSCME members working in the Obama campaign. The Service Employees union (SEIU) is supporting Obama. Most other unions are not endorsing either candidate yet but are busy registering voters.

Presently Obama has 1,611 pledged delegates and Clinton has 1,480. To secure the nomination at the August 25-28 Democratic Convention, a candidate must receive at lease 2,024 votes. There are 794 super delegates that are unpledged, representing 20 percent of the votes. Superdelegates are members of Congress, governors and other party leaders. One topic of debate among Democrats in Pennsylvania is whether the superdelegates should follow the popular vote of their state or choose the candidate they think is best. Everyone is holding their breath, hoping that unity will prevail after April 22.

phillyrose623 @ verizon.net