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New poll shows Barack Obama tanking in Pennsylvania

April 14, 2008 | 10:59 am

The first fresh poll results from Pennsylvania are in since Barack Obama's "bitter" comments about people in small towns exploded as a news story, and the findings could hardly be worse for the Democratic presidential contender.

Intriguingly, the man in charge of the survey said interviews with voters indicate Obama's tumble in the state has more to do with what the candidate himself has said were ill-chosen words than anything else.

The new poll by American Research Group -- conducted Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- gave Clinton 57% and Obama 37% (based on interviews with 600 Democrats, the survey has an error margin of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points). The 20-point margin is all the more dramatic because, just the week before, an ARG poll found the pair in a flat-out tie in Pennsylvania, each with 45%.

The previous findings had put the race closer than any others. And perhaps the new one exaggerates the bounce Clinton has gotten from the storm over Obama's remarks at a San Francisco fund-raiser. Other pollsters are in the field in Pennsylvania, and we eagerly await their results (an L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll of Democrats in the Keystone State -- as well as in North Carolina and Indiana -- will be ready mid-week).

Regardless, the New Hamphire-based ARG poll, may have identified a tactical worry for the Obama camp above and beyond the current controversy. Dick Bennett, head of the poll, told us today that even before the furor erupted, it appeared many Pennsylvania Democrats began to turn against Obama because they are simply sick and tired of seeing and hearing his ads.

Much as campaign consultants would be loath to agree, Bennett opined that a candidate "can spend too much money" on an ad campaign, and the saturation of Obama spots ...

in Pennsylvania appear to be a classic example of "overkill" that ultimately does harm.

Bennett also reported that some of the Pennsylvanians who his company contacted went on to complain about the substance of the ubiquitous Obama ads. They are "about him, not voters or what their concerns are," Bennett said. And Obama's comment on attitudes in small towns served to reinforce that feeling.

-- Don Frederick

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