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Exit polls show sharp divide among Democrats

  • Story Highlights
  • Some voters would pick McCain if their Democratic candidate didn't win
  • Cities report strong but not record-breaking turnout at polls
  • Clinton is still ahead in many polls, but Obama has cut away at her lead
  • 54 percent of voters said the economy was the top issue for them
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PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Election officials in Pennsylvania's largest cities reported solid but not record-breaking turnout for the state's Democratic primary after a bruising seven-week campaign.

Hillary Clinton led Barack Obama in published polls going into the primary, the biggest remaining contest of the Democratic presidential race. Analysts had said Obama would need to rack up a wide margin with strong turnout in Philadelphia and its surrounding counties to pull ahead.

CNN projected a Clinton victory. With about a quarter of precincts reporting Tuesday night, she was leading Barack Obama 54-46 percent.

Exit polls indicated that Philadelphia and its suburbs made up more than 30 percent of the vote, and those boxes were tilted heavily toward Obama. But Clinton supporters turned out heavily in Pittsburgh and the counties of western Pennsylvania, and she was racking up similarly lopsided margins in the state's industrial northeast, those surveys found. Video Watch an analysis of election polling results »

Fred Voight, Philadelphia's deputy city commissioner, said there were long lines at polling stations in the state's largest city, with only occasional problems reported. He attributed the turnout to the fact that for the first time in 30-plus years, the Democratic race is not settled when Pennsylvania votes.

"You can't really judge until it's over, but based upon other factors, it's a very robust election," Voight said.

"The last time Pennsylvania was in that mix was Jimmy Carter [in 1976], so this is an unusual primary for us," he said. "But we've had other primaries that were monstrous."

In Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Elections Manager Mark Wolosik said turnout was "busy but nowhere near a record."

Obama racked up margins of more than 90 percent among Pennsylvania's black voters, who are heavily concentrated around Philadelphia. African-Americans made up about 14 percent of Tuesday's vote, and whites made up about 80 percent -- and voted 60-40 for Clinton.

The last week of campaigning included a bruising debate between Obama and Clinton, who also pounded her rival for a recent remark that decades of economic decline had left some rural voters "bitter" and clinging to religion and guns. CNN exit polls showed that nearly a quarter of state voters made their decisions in the past week, and those voters leaned toward Clinton by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent.

Obama cut sharply into the double-digit lead Clinton held in published polls of Pennsylvanians when the campaign began seven weeks ago. But he outspent her by 2-to-1, and Clinton's campaign has begun questioning whether he could stand up to Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, after losing his third big state in a row.

"The press and the pundits have repeatedly counted Sen. Clinton out, and she has repeatedly proved them wrong," her campaign said. "The vote in the bellwether state of Pennsylvania is another head-to-head measure of the two candidates and of the coalition they will put together to compete and win in November."

Obama said he would continue to lead Clinton in the overall race even if he loses in Pennsylvania but admitted Tuesday afternoon that the state has been "an uphill climb."

"I don't try to pretend that I enjoy getting 45 percent, and that's a moral victory," the first-term Illinois senator said. "We've lost the state. What I do believe is that we're coming to the end of this process. We've won twice as many states, we've won the popular vote by fairly substantial margins, we've got a very big lead in pledged delegates, and we competed, win or lose."

Weekly churchgoers made up almost 36 percent of Tuesday's electorate, and they went to Clinton by a 56-44 margin. More than a third of the voters were gun owners, and they preferred Clinton by a similar margin: 60 percent to 40 percent, the polls found.

But the contest appears to have left a bad taste in the mouth of many voters: Eleven percent of those voting in the Democratic race said they would vote for McCain over Clinton. Another 6 percent said they would stay home in a race between McCain and Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady.

Ten percent of Democrats said they would sit on their hands in a McCain-Obama race, and 15 percent said they would vote for McCain over the Illinois senator.

A total of 158 delegates to the party's August convention in Denver were at stake Tuesday night, with delegates allocated by congressional district and weighted toward districts with strong performances. Clinton trails Obama in the number of delegates each has won to the August convention and would need to win by a large margin to make up much ground.

Pennsylvania has high percentages of some core Clinton constituencies: Catholics, voters over 60 and blue-collar workers. She led strongly in all those categories, according to exit polls, and Obama led strongly among voters 18-29.

Clinton had the support of the state's top Democrats: Gov. Ed Rendell and the mayors of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. But another leading Clinton backer, Johnstown-area congressman John Murtha, said Clinton "has to" win the state.

"That's all there is to it," Murtha said.

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As in previous contests, the slumping economy was the No. 1 issue among Pennsylvania voters, polls found, and Clinton led Obama by a double-digit margin, 56 percent to 44 percent, among voters who considered it their top concern.

Fifty-four percent ranked the economy the biggest issue, placing it far ahead of the next-highest issue, the war in Iraq. Among voters who ranked the war their top issue, Obama reversed Clinton's edge to lead 56-44. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About PennsylvaniaPittsburghPhiladelphiaHillary ClintonBarack Obama

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