One of the more depressing aspects of the constant tension between Obama and Clinton supporters is some of the characterizations floating around... none more so, I think, then the denigration of millions of Clinton supporters as uneducated, prejudiced and backward.
The extended primary calendar - of which I remain no fan - is once again providing interesting wrinkles; with three weeks to go, it still seems clear that Obama is poorly positioned to win Pennsylvania. Though he's making headway, and enjoys the endorsement of Bob Casey, he has still not really moved his poll numbers into a range where victory seems at all possible. Obama supporters continue to argue that a loss of less than 10% shows "momentum"... but a loss is still a loss, and a loss in Pennsylvania adds to the list of large states that Obama can't carry in open primaries.
As they have in other neighboring states, Obama supporters tend to blame voters from Appalachia. That's the thread that helps explain Clinton's success in Tennessee, the western end of Virginia, parts of Maryland, and the Southeastern section of Ohio. Or so we are told.
The complication for Obama is that the mischief of the calendar means that 3 states with upcoming primaries are in this problem zone - almost all of Pennsylvania; the eastern half of Kentucky... and of course, West Virginia.
In all 3 states, Obama is polling badly, making it hard, yet again, to "close the deal" with victories that would eliminate Clinton from any sort of contention. All three of these states represents serious opportunities for Democrats this fall, and Obama's failures in the primaries are not like states like New York, where the Obama argue, perfectly plausibly, that a begonia with a "D" affiliation would beat John McCain. In Kentucky, that's not nearly so clear.
It's easy - too easy, really - to lay all of this on race as an issue. There's been an ugly strain of complaint lurking in Obama supporting posts about what drives the choices of people who don't vote for Obama. Which, at least, suggests an attempt to figure out who's not voting for him; just as often, the fact that people don't vte for Obama is treated as a mystery, an anomaly, or unimportant.
Belatedly, Obama has come to realize that he can't just blow past PA; the prospect of Clinton winning by 20 points - especially while his supporters were floating their usual "she should get out now" lines, played terribly. Now he's changed his approach, shortening his stump speech, taking questions, and talking "specifics." Of course, reports of such specifics don't actually mention any, just that, you know, he talks about them. This is something I've said all along, indeed well before any votes were cast. It's not at all clear that the specifics will solve the problem, nor that they won't create new ones. But it does, at least, offer the prospect of lifting this campaign from the mud back to a debate over issues that people actually care about.
And that's really the point; dismissing the concerns of working class white people to get specific answers for specific problems, more than anything, is what's kept Obama from having appeal. Sexism among older working white men is no small issue, yet Hillary Clinton has made headway across the country by making their issues hers. So could Obama; but I'm not sure he can be all things to all people, and if he can't challenge the preconceptions of the people who see Appalachia, still, as hick country, then I'm not sure he's really closed the deal.
And that leaves the road to the Hollow wide open for John McCain.