This is a rush transcript from "The Journal Editorial Report," April 19, 2008.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: Coming up next on the "Journal Editorial Report," our Pennsylvania preview. The Democrats battle it out in the keystone state with Hillary Clinton hammering Obama on the electability issue. Have his recent missteps hurt him with voters Democrats need in November?
Plus, John McCain lays out his plan to save the sagging economy. We'll sort the good from the bad.
All that, and Pope Benedict's message to American Catholics, but first, these headlines.
GIGOT: Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." The presidential candidates squared off this week in the Pennsylvania primary in a debate that put Barack Obama on the defensive. Recent missteps have left him reeling and reinforced Hillary Clinton's central argument to undecided superdelegates that Obama will be an inviting target for McCain come November.
But despite what she's been saying behind the scenes, Clinton said in Wednesday's debate that Obama can in fact win in the fall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, DEBATE MODERATOR: Do you think Senator Obama can do that? Can he win?
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Yes, yes, Yes. Now, I think that I can do a better job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIGOT: Joining the panel this week, "Wall Street Journal" columnist and deputy editor Dan Henninger, editorial board member Jason Riley and columnist John Fund.
John, there is a switch. People said Hillary Clinton would be the weaker candidate in the fall. Now she is saying Barack Obama would be the weaker candidate. Is their truth to her argument or is this her last desperate argument to try to prevail?
JOHN FUND, COLUMNIST: Well, the polls show both candidates are even against John McCain but have different coalitions. Hillary Clinton would do much better with the traditional Democratic coalition. The red and blue state divide would largely hold. Barack Obama would have a different coalition. He would do better with better educated upper-income voters but he'd have trouble with working class Democrats that are 40 percent of the primary vote in the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania next week.
JASON RILEY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: She will use this Pennsylvania primary to try to demonstrate that, I think. We saw this similarly play out in Ohio, a state of similar Democrat make up.
GIGOT: Obama didn't get those crucial working class...
RILEY: Right. Hillary got off to a big lead. Obama close it somewhat but couldn't close the deal in Ohio. In Pennsylvania, same thing. Hillary got out to a big lead. Obama closed it. Whether he will be able to -- what it might reveal is whether he has a ceiling among working class whites. And Hillary will certainly use that to go to the superdelegates and say I will more electable.
FUND: If Obama doesn't get 45 percent of the working class vote in a general election, he probably can't win the White House. And that's the concern of Democratic superdelegates. They like everything about Obama, but the recent missteps make them wonder, can he really connect with the average American voter.
GIGOT: Dan, let's talk about the missteps. We learned about a different Obama. The Obama of Iowa was transcendent, post-partisan, eloquent figure who wanted to transcend normal politics or reform and so on. and now we find out in many weighs he is more conventional with some of the more conventional with more some the more conventional flaws of a Democratic police, particularly his liberal voting record. You have the Jeremiah Wright episode, a church he attended for 0 years. So how much of a problem is this for Obama?
HENNINGER: Well, I think it is reflecting a very significant weakness in his candidacy. These issues are more than nothing, the Reverend Wright problem, now that Bill Ayers, the radical and miss now the missteps in answering questions on capital gains. And when he gets trapped into an issue like this where people have legitimate concerns, he starts to talk. It is almost logorrhea. He keeps talking and then he inevitably says my candidacy is about moving beyond problems like this and uniting the country. And this is basically articulate nonsense.