Voters in the state of Pennsylvania are going to the polls to show their preference for who should win the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from Pittsburgh that there is much at stake in this late-in-the-season primary election.
After six weeks of intense and sometimes nasty campaigning, the voters of Pennsylvania are finally getting their say.
They are expected to turn out in large numbers in a contest that could determine the fate of Hillary Clinton's campaign for the presidency.
Far into the selection process, she trails Barack Obama in the number of delegates committed to endorse her candidacy at the party convention in August.
Clinton desperately needs a big win. And on election eve she was still traveling back and forth across the state, rallying her supporters and trying to win over the few remaining undecided voters in Pennsylvania.
"Some people say that America's best days are behind us. Some people say yes we can, but that does not mean we will," Clinton said. "I believe we will, if we have the right leadership. If you stand with me, I will go to the White House and fight for you every single day."
Earlier in the year, Clinton had a strong double digit lead in Pennsylvania. Obama has been able to significantly narrow the gap by focusing on his message of change and labeling Clinton as part of the status quo.
"We share a lot of policy positions," Obama said. "But the reason I am running is I believe I am more committed to bringing about the changes that are necessary than Senator Clinton is."
Obama supporters say a poorer than expected performance by Hillary Clinton should be enough to convince her to drop out of the race. But Clinton backers say they expect the contest will go on.
Dan Onorato is the top official in Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh. Onorato, a Democrat, believes all remaining primary election states will get a chance to vote before the nominee is chosen.
"Neither candidate is even close to claiming the nomination," he said. "There are still several primaries left and I think those voters should be heard. And unless the votes in the primaries produce a clear winner, these candidates have every right to stay in until the end."
Local Republican officials in Pennsylvania leave no doubt they are delighted to see a protracted fight for the Democratic nomination. Jim Roddey chairs the Allegheny County Republican Party.
"I think that all the McCain [John McCain is the presumptive Republican party nominee] people are doing right now, they are taking notes," he said. "Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are doing all our opposition research for us, so we are making notes and we will be ready."
But political commentator and Duquesne University professor Joe Sabino Mistick points to the huge crowds Senator Obama has drawn in Pennsylvania, saying he is even outdrawing the local baseball teams in this sports-crazed state. He says Democrats are energized.
"The Pittsburgh Pirates do not draw 35,000 people when they are on a winning streak. So that is just some indication of the level of excitement," he noted.
Senator Obama has already conceded in media interviews that Hillary Clinton is likely to win in Pennsylvania. She will spend election night with supporters in Philadelphia. Obama will await the election returns in Indiana which, along with North Carolina, votes in the next round of primaries on May 6.