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US Election Focuses on Pennsylvania

Voters in the state of Pennsylvania are preparing to go to the polls (Tuesday) to help select the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports from Pittsburgh that Pennsylvanians are taking their unexpected crucial role in the process very seriously.

It was not supposed to be this way. When the primary election calendar was set last year, Pennsylvanians thought their late contest would be an afterthought. Instead, it has turned into a crucial, often nasty battle between Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Pennsylvanians are stunned.

Joe Sabino-Mistick: "We have not really mattered in the presidential primaries for almost 40 years and it is pretty exciting to have the candidates here day in and day out."

Joe Sabino Mistick, a former Pittsburgh city official, is now a political commentator and professor at Duquesne University.

Joe Sabino-Mistick: "We take our politics very seriously. But there is a difference from one end of the state to the other, however. In Philadelphia they sort of eat, breathe and sleep politics. In Pittsburgh, we really do not pay much attention until maybe a few weeks before Election Day and then we do our work, we do our homework."

But there is one trait that is shared among voters statewide. They all seem to agree on the main issue in the campaign.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been focusing on the economy in the campaign advertisements that are blanketing the airwaves in the state. Polls going into Election Day show the almost three-million dollars spent in the past six weeks by the Obama campaign has paid off. He has cut Clinton's lead in Pennsylvania from double digits to about five or six percent. And as the race has gotten closer, the tone has become more negative. Clinton is telling crowds Obama can not be trusted.

Hilary Clinton: "So while my opponent says one thing, and his campaign does another, you can count on me to tell you where I stand."

Meanwhile, Obama is promoting his message of change and linking Clinton to the status quo.

Barack Obama: "Her basic view about this election is that the say anything, do anything special interests driven politics of Washington, that is how it has got to be, that is how the game is played."

Both candidates will spend election eve in Pittsburgh in the western part of the state, where Clinton has a two-to-one edge among voters. Then they move east to Philadelphia, where Obama has a massive lead in pre-election polls. Together, the two cities are expected to account for more than half the votes cast on primary election day.