The speech was good, but they're sticking with Hillary

Posted: March 20, 2008

BECAUSE IT WAS conducted from March 11-16, the Daily News/ Franklin & Marshall poll showing Hillary Clinton with big lead over Barack Obama didn't reflect voter response to Obama's widely publicized speech on race in Philadelphia Tuesday.

Calls to 14 voters who took part in the survey yesterday found nearly all reacted positively to the speech, though none said it changed their preference.

Obama supporter Allen Spielman of Center City said he'd been troubled by controversial remarks from Obama's former pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, calling them "aggressively divisive."

But Spielman said Obama's address reassured him.

"I thought it was an astounding speech, very nuanced," Spielman said.

Ellen Peters, a Berks County middle school teacher, said she was a Hillary Clinton supporter before and after Obama's speech, but that it made her feel better about Obama.

"I like what he said, because I thought it had more substance than a lot of the speeches he'd given before," Peters said. "He was telling me more about himself as a candidate, and how he processes problems."

Nikki Nordenberg of Pittsburgh, who described herself as self-employed with a Ph.D, said she's firmly committed to Clinton but respected the way Obama handled the issues his pastor's remarks had presented.

"I liked the fact that he went to bat for the guy and explained that everybody has these experiences," Nordenberg said, "that there are two sides to a lot of people."

Poll director G. Terry Madonna said the speech probably helped defuse the controversy over Wright's remarks, but "my sense is that it probably hasn't moved a lot of the blue collar voters [Obama] needs to reach.

"He needs policy specifics on how he'll bring a brighter economic future to do that."

Robert Reed, a West Oak Lane truck driver and Obama supporter, said the speech will do much to prevent critics from seizing on Wright's remarks to play the race card against Obama.

"I think he did exactly what he's supposed to do," Wright said.

One voter who didn't like the speech was Marie Uslin, a Clinton supporter from Northeast Philadelphia.

She was very troubled by Wright's comments and found Obama's explanation insincere.

"He had a fake smile, because he was trying to cover up," Uslin said.

"I'm not really prejudiced," she added, "but he's part Indian himself, and it's not American Indian, and that's what makes me leery."

Obama's mother was a white woman from Kansas, his father was Kenyan and he spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. *

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