Continuing a pattern that she demonstrated in New York City, Democratic presidential hopeful Senator Hillary Clinton has won endorsements of leading gay political groups in the major cities of Pennsylvania, which are the next, and potentially the final, battlegrounds in the unexpectedly long primary contest.
The crucial Pennsylvania Democratic primary, with 188 pledged delegates at stake, will be held on April 22. Many believe it is essential for Clinton to win the state to continue in the close primary contest that Obama currently leads, having lately also chipped into Clinton’s hold on the party’s superdelegates.
As of late March, polls showed Clinton ahead of Obama among all voters in the Pennsylvania primary.
On March 26, the Washington Blade reported that Clinton, the junior U.S. Senator from New York, had received the endorsement of Philadelphia’s largest gay political group, the Liberty City Democratic Club. A few weeks earlier, the Steel City Democrats, a gay Pittsburgh group, also gave its endorsement to Clinton.
Experts have speculated on what makes Clinton so popular among the LGBT community. In November, a Hunter College poll found that 63 percent of LGBT primary voters planned on voting for her. Some attributed the fondness to gay voters’ familiarity with the Clinton brand name, as well as an unquantifiable but palpable inclination to embrace strong female leaders.
Obama and Clinton hold similar positions on key LGBT issues: Both oppose same-sex marriage but support civil unions, support the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that bars gay people from serving openly in the military and uphold a commitment to transgender-inclusive hate crimes and employment non-discrimination legislation.
In fact, these similarities may account for whatever sense of competition exists between the two candidates as they seek the LGBT vote. The level playing field on LGBT issues offers an opportunity to sell themselves to gay voters on other issues.
Perhaps Obama was attempting to call attention to these distinctions with his remarks at a rally in Medford, Oregon on March 22.
“The planet is, you know, potentially being destroyed,” Obama said as he expressed his disgust with making a wedge issue of same-sex marriage. “We’ve got a war that is bankrupting us. And we’re going to argue about gay marriage? I mean, that doesn’t make any sense.”