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Clinton Team Exudes Confidence About Pa. Outcome

By Anne E. Kornblut
SCRANTON, Pa. -- Clinton campaign advisers, exuding confidence on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary, said a defeat here on Tuesday for Sen. Barack Obama will raise new doubts about his ability to win the general election.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton herself had seemed to settle the question of Obama's electability during a debate the previous week. Facing mounting anxiety among Democrats that she would rather destroy the eventual nominee than withdraw from the race, Clinton said three times -- "yes, yes, yes" -- during the Philadelphia debate that Obama could defeat Sen. John McCain in November if he won the nomination.

On Monday, however, Clinton aides held a conference call to discuss the stakes in the Pennsylvania race. They flatly denied a banner headline on the Drudge Report saying the campaign has internal polling showing her 11 points ahead. Geoff Garin, the new strategist on the Clinton team, swore up and down that no such poll nor any such data exists within the campaign.

The Clinton team's hope -- its only hope, some have said -- is to use a large Clinton victory in Pennsylvania to persuade superdelegates to turn their way for fear of losing the general election. There have been a number of difficult moments for Obama in recent weeks, but no one bolt of lightning to strike him out of the race as the Clinton campaign had hoped.

"Sen. Obama in the past had serious problems winning states that Democrats need to win in order to win in November," Howard Wolfson, a senior Clinton aide, said, adding that it was states "like Florida, like Michigan, like Ohio and now in Pennsylvania."

"He is doing everything that he can to win -- not to finish closely, not to do well -- to win," Wolfson said. "He is trying to knock Sen. Clinton out of this race. He has outspent us three to one.... He has gone sharply negative. There are so many negative ads he has up that I can't even keep track of them.... If he does not win after having outspent us so dramatically," Wolfson said, it would raise "very serious questions ... about whether Sen. Obama can win the big swing states that any Democrat would have to win in November."

By Web Politics Editor  |  April 21, 2008; 1:03 PM ET
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