Obama competitive in Pennsylvania, up in Indiana: poll

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Presidential contender Barack Obama has wiped out his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton's yawning lead in Indiana and trails by just five points in Pennsylvania, according to a new poll Tuesday.

Ahead of the crunch Pennsylvania primary next Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll suggested that Obama has not suffered overly from his description of working-class voters as "bitter."

The poll gave the former first lady a lead over Obama of 46 percent to 41 in Pennsylvania, down from double-digit margins in earlier polls, and also had her losing in both Indiana and North Carolina, which both vote next on May 6.

Analysts say Clinton needs a thumping victory in Pennsylvania next week to persuade Democratic luminaries known as "superdelegates" that Obama, who leads in the overall delegate count, is unelectable against Republican John McCain.

Like Pennsylvania, Indiana is a rust-belt state full of the kind of blue-collar voters that have formed the bedrock of Clinton's support. Another poll released Monday by SurveyUSA gave her a 16-point lead there.

But the LA Times poll, conducted from Thursday to Monday at the height of the "bitter" furor, had Obama ahead in Indiana by 40 percent to 35 for Clinton.

In follow-up interviews with respondents, the newspaper reported, some voters complained that allegations that Obama is elitist, and criticism of fiery sermons by his former pastor, were "sideshows" to serious policy issues.

The latest row erupted after Obama said at a fundraiser in liberal California last week that some voters were embittered by years of economic decline and cast their votes on social issues instead of economic ones.

The LA Times poll also had Obama up 13 points in North Carolina. Other surveys also suggest the man bidding to be the first African-American president will benefit from the southern state's large number of black Democratic voters.

Another poll by Quinnipiac University out earlier Tuesday had Clinton leading Obama in Pennsylvania by 50 to 44 percent.

Clinton's six-point lead was unchanged from that registered in a poll by Quinnipiac last week, which followed weeks in which Obama had steadily cut into her wide advantage in the gritty state.