For those of us who have believed for a while that Sen. Barack Obama would be a more vulnerable Democratic nominee than Sen. Hillary Clinton, the exit-poll data that emerged in yesterday’s Pennsylvania primary provides some ammo. He emerged as the clear leader in only a few voter categories – African-Americans (as has been the case since Iowa), 18-to-40-year-olds, atheists and agnostics (or those expressing no religious preference and attending no church, anyway), those seeking “change,” and…..those who made the Iraq war their primary consideration when voting. Since this group went 54-46 for Obama, it stands to reason that those who supported him are keen on his bring-the-troops-home-and-maybe-send-’em-back-later stand.
It’s at times like these (and when he stumbles and stammers through a debate in such a way that Jon Stewart is obliged to make it the subject of a Daily Show montage) that the gentleman from Illinois starts to uncomfortably remind November-minded Democrats of George McGovern rather than Bobby Kennedy. (I’ve noticed, incidentally, that more and more bloggers are endorsing the idea of a Sen. John McCain-Gov. Bobby Jindal ticket. I’ll discuss the virtues of such a pairing later, but for now – doesn’t Gov. Jindal, with his boyish grin and tousled hair, rather resemble RFK?)

Like McGovern, when all the nebulous rhetoric about “change we can believe in,” “yes we can” (when is Sammy Davis Jr going to get some credit for inspiring that phrase with the title of his memoirs, Yes I Can?), and (fill in your own favorite catchphrase) is subtracted, Obama stands or falls on Iraq. And at least it could be said of McGovern that when he talked about an immediate withdrawal, that was that. The South Dakota Senator, at least as I recall, never said anything about sending troops back into South Vietnam if things didn’t work out. One of McCain’s most effective ripostes in recent weeks was his reply to Obama’s musings about sending troops back into Iraq if Al-Qaida terrorists “were to be” established there.

Another highly interesting aspect of the exit poll is the suggestion that Obama’s vaunted appeal to better-educated, high-income (and presumably motivated) voters, one of his supporters’ principal arguments for his electability, seems on the decline. Clinton, as expected, defeated him 58-42 among voters with a high-school education or less, but also won (or at least reached a statistical tie), 51-49, among college graduates. Clinton also led Obama, 55-45, among voters earning $50,000 or more.

The campaign now goes into Indiana, which has an electorate similar in many ways to Pennsylvania’s. Whether Obama is on the low end of a ten-point margin again, or whether he can overcome that gap, is a big question at this point.