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Williams, a member of the "Women of Steel" committee of her union, joined scores of unionists who chanted "no, no" to shut down Clinton when she raised Obama's controversial remarks that small-town Americans were clinging to religion and guns in bitterness over their economic troubles."We feel more that he is the people," she said of Obama. "He hasn't been there long enough to have done things against us. BATTLE FOR JOBS A Franklin & Marshall College poll published on April 15 showed that 43 percent of Pennsylvania Democrats cited the ailing economy as the most important issue in the race, up from 29 percent in January. Twenty-three percent cited the Iraq war. "We're in a battle here," said Susan Nicholas, a chemical recovery technician at a Pittsburgh area mill. "It's very important that our jobs stay here in Pennsylvania, because we are a depressed area," she added. Pittsburgh gleams and bustles as a center of high-technology and medical research. But the main streets of nearby Monongahela River steel towns like Braddock and Homestead are riddled with empty and abandoned storefronts. The Alliance for American Manufacturing says Pennsylvania has lost more than 207,400 manufacturing jobs -- a quarter of its total -- since 2000. The group says NAFTA cost 4,016 jobs a year while trade with China took away 15,640 annually. "Cheap goods have a very expensive price," said Holly Hart, legislative director for United Steelworkers. "We've lost jobs. We've got declining benefits. We have limited retirement security, disinvestment in our infrastructure and outsourcing," she said 'EXTRAORDINARILY REPRESENTATIVE' PENNSYLVANIA Michael Langley, chief executive of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, says his regional business promotion group empathizes with distressed workers, but he describes Pittsburgh as the "poster child for reincarnation." Places Rated Almanac has twice named Pittsburgh "America's Most Livable City" and the region now has 70,000 more jobs than in the 1980s peak of steel employment, with the same population, he said. Pittsburgh's prowess in metallurgy and advanced material sciences has won it a share in fast-growing markets like China that helps "those dollars come back here," Langley told Reuters after a McCain speech at Carnegie Mellon University. "The back-office jobs, the headquarters jobs, the IT jobs -- those jobs are growing in Pittsburgh as a result of our companies being involved in the global market," said Langley. Pennsylvania's 4.2 million registered Democrats, out of an electorate of 8.3 million that narrowly favored Democrat John Kerry in 2004, are a coveted prize in the close Clinton-Obama race. A diverse mix of old and new industries makes Pennsylvania "extraordinarily representative" of the whole country, says University of Maryland economist Peter Morici. He suggests today's economic complexities should give Illinois Sen. Obama an advantage over New York Sen. Clinton. "Obama represents opportunities, whereas Clinton represents redressing social injustices that no longer exist in the same quantity as they once did," said Morici. An April 16-17 Zogby poll of registered Democrats in Pennsylvania gave Clinton a 47 percent to 43 lead over Obama, with 10 percent either undecided or supporting someone else. (Editing by Mohammad Zargham)
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