Salena Zito

Those wounds have not healed among Democrats who feel they did not receive in Obama what they would have received in Hillary.

Obama needs Pennsylvania to win re-election. Yet his Electoral College calculus is complicated by his failure to poll well among Jacksonian voters (mostly rural or blue-collar whites) and worsened by his mandate that religious institutions such as Catholic hospitals -- whose objections he sought to mollify on Friday -- provide contraception to employees.

Such government intervention does not sit well with many voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio and other critical, Catholic-rich Midwestern states. Catholic Democrats may lean left on social-justice issues -- but don't try to tell their priests, parishes or hospitals what to do about contraception and abortion.

Even the class-based populist attacks that Obama emphasizes in his political rhetoric, traditionally thought to appeal to Jacksonian white voters, are falling on deaf ears this time around. He is polling the worst with those very voters -- and his rhetoric may repel the professional white voters with whom he has always done especially well.

As the election draws nearer, Pennsylvania no doubt will be the key to the political world. Its microcosm of voters -- ranging from rich-gentry whites who shifted to Obama in 2008, to somewhat more downscale Jacksonian whites who shifted to Republicans in 2010 -- will be at the center of attention.

For Obama to win here, his coalition will need to maximize the minority vote, keep single women and the youth vote firmly in his corner, eke out a win with gentry whites, split the independent vote and hold down the losses among Jacksonian whites.

That is going to be a problem for him, with the loss of the Rays in this state.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.