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Pa. leaders, Clinton aides say Obama disrespects state

Obama's campaign chief had called Pennsylvania "only one of ten remaining contests."

Gov. Rendell, Mayor Nutter and two of Hillary Rodham Clinton's top aides yesterday blasted Barack Obama's campaign for allegedly diminishing and disrespecting Pennsylvania's presidential primary.

In a national conference call with reporters, the foursome pointed to a memorandum written by Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, that referred to Pennsylvania as "only one of ten remaining contests."

Rendell predicted that the description would be "off-putting" to the state's Democratic voters. Nutter called it "one of the silliest things I've seen in recent times."

Mark Penn, Clinton's top strategist, went on to praise the state - the largest yet to vote - as "incredibly vibrant and important" both in the nomination fight and the general election.

Obama's Pennsylvania spokesman, Sean Smith, said the controversy was much ado about nothing, that Obama had every intention of competing for the state's 158 pledged delegates in the voting on April 22.

"If anyone is taking the state for granted, it's the Clinton campaign," Smith said. "They're the ones who keep saying this is Clinton country, that they're unbeatable here, that they own the political infrastructure."

Smith noted that Obama, who trails in most Pennsylvania polls by double digits, already had radio commercials up and running in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The Clinton campaign does not.

During the conference call, Penn said that Obama would be in suburban Indianapolis tomorrow while Clinton, who visits Pittsburgh today, is to march in St. Patrick's Day parades in Pittsburgh and Scranton.

Smith said that Obama, who had to cancel a trip to Beaver County yesterday to vote in the Senate, would return to Pennsylvania next week and often thereafter.

"We campaign everywhere," Smith said. "We don't cherry-pick states. We don't designate the importance of states based on where we think we're going to win."