Posts Tagged ‘Pennsylvania Primary’

Battle for Pa

August 19, 2008

By my account, Pennsylvania is in play. I don’t agree with Slate, which puts the state in its “safe Dem” category.

“The chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, James Burn Jr., a former supporter of Mrs. Clinton, is on the front lines of building up support for Mr. Obama in Pittsburgh and its surrounding communities.

‘Some of the folks who were with Hillary came right over. Others, it took a little while. Still a few, we need to work on,’ he said, adding that he tells the former backers of the New York senator ‘whatever you’re mad about, get rid of it.’

Mr. Burn said that his job would be made easier if Mr. Obama made himself a more visible presence in Western Pennsylvania. ‘Senator Obama has to come out to the West,’ Mr. Burn said. ‘He needs to be out here more. We hope to see more of him.’

Speeches to prominent Catholic groups, such as the Knights of Columbus, would help solidify the backing of undecided voters and rebut tough allegations sure to come in the fall. Mr. Burn explained that such visibility would help voters ‘believe what they hear from him and not what someone’s saying.’ Mr. Obama was in the state to host an economic forum at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University in June.”

Read more in my New York Sun column here.

PA Primary: Continued Recriminations

April 24, 2008

Overheard in a Newton cafe was a conversation between two Barack Obama supporters. The server — you might call her a barista but it wasn’t Starbucks — is recounting her experiences canvassing on behalf of Obama in Pennsylvania to a pro-Obama customer.

The young woman is talking about knocking on doors in a diverse yet heavily Republican area. She’s expressing anger at the media for characterizing Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory as a ten point victory. It’s amusing to now hear Obama supporters complaining about the press — just as I heard Clinton people doing several months ago. I’m reminded of something Ari Fleischer once told me; the press is biased…in favor of conflict.

She’s saying she’s hooked by politics, “totally addicted.”

On the plane back from Pittsburgh, I flew with a couple who had been in Pennsylvania for several weeks canvassing for Obama. Classic moonbats.

Of greater interest is that I sat next to a Massachusetts Teamster who I had seen breaking down the stage at an Obama event. He told me that the Obama forces achieved their goal, which was to keep Clinton at ten points or below. By either of those measures, Obama succeeded.


Pennsylvania Primary: After Action Report

April 23, 2008

I have to give great credit to Suffolk University’s David Paleologos for once again nailing the PA primary result.

This is my third experience of being in a state the night prior to an election and experiencing the tremendous enthusiasm around Barack Obama, only to see him lose. Hillary Clinton may not pull passionate supporters at rallies in such large numbers as Obama, but her people come out and vote on election day.

I’m starting to think that members of the media are mislead by these exuberant events. Obama supporters, to be sure, are the most likely to go to rallies and then to vote on election day. And, if you are a passionate Obama backer, you are likely to go to a rally to be part of the Obama experience. But few observers ever consider the people who don’t go to Obama rallies when he’s in town. The people who don’t show up aren’t necessarily Obama voters, and reporters don’t interview them .

Also to my comments about the Jewish community. According to Andrea Mitchell today on MSNBC, the Jewish community in Pennsylvania was divided on its support, as I suggested it would be.

Bill Clinton Hits Squirrel Hill JCC

April 22, 2008

Pittsburgh is unique for having the second-highest percentage of its Jewish population living within its city limits. The greatest number of those Jews live in Squirrel Hill, a graceful neighborhood of tree-lined streets, single-family homes as well as a commercial district with shops and coffee shops. I’d analogize the neighborhood to Brookline.

As I arrived at the Jewish Community Center to observe the balloting, I spotted a number of television live trucks parked alongside the building. Inside Michael Bartley, a WQED reporter, was interviewing voters for a report that was going to be fed to Lehrer News Hour.

I quickly learned that Bill Clinton had just left. The whole building, which he wasn’t permitted to enter, was buzzing about his visit.

I view the visit as an effort to solidify support among older Jewish Americans, some of whom are still put off by Barack Obama. I wouldn’t over value this because I spotted several Obama supporters at the location.

Inside I overheard several political conversations. One man did say “he speaks more like a preacher than a politician. That shows the influence Reverend Wright had on him.” But then his friend cautioned him not “to make too much of it.”


Counting on Casey

April 22, 2008

I spent some time talking to Robert Casey, a pro-life Democrat who is doing everything he can to get Barack Obama elected. Here’s my column in the New York Sun.

“If Barack Obama is to win Pennsylvania today or in November as the party’s eventual nominee, it will be, in part, due to the work of a Pennsylvania senator, Robert Casey Jr.

The image of Mr. Casey, standing atop a Scranton hill wearing a windbreaker and speaking in favor of Mr. Obama, is being shown in heavy rotation in western Pennsylvania for a television ad. The emphasis of the ad is on the presidential candidate’s ability to revive the economy and unite the country.

Mr. Casey, who was elected as a senator in 2006, is a pro-life Democrat. His support of Mr. Obama shows that the Illinois senator can reach beyond the support of African-Americans and white liberals. On Friday, Mr. Casey stood on stage at a rally outside Heinz Field in Pittsburgh with former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who played in the 1970s and early 1980s, when they won four superbowls. The popularity of the team during that time made it possible for Pennsylvanians to transcend ethnic, religious, and political divides.

‘This crowd is young and old and white and black and focused on the future,’ Mr. Casey said to cheers from the audience as he stood beside legendary running back Franco Harris.’ “

PA Primary: The Expectations Game

April 22, 2008

Reporting from Pennsylvania, I attempt to survey advocates and political analysts on the expectations game in The New York Sun.

The Clinton campaign is arguing that because Barack Obama outspent it here by a 3 to 1 margin, Hillary Clinton only needs to win the state outright. Most people I talked said she needed a win in the high single digits or double digits, although a new Suffolk University poll suggests she may get that. 

Here’s a flavor of the story: “At stake today is the future of the Democratic nominating contest in which voters have been casting ballots for nearly five months, as well as the political fate of a New York senator who has been in the national limelight for 16 years. If Mr. Obama wins or loses only by a slight margin, money could dry up for Mrs. Clinton, a reality that could mean the end of her campaign. A sizeable victory for her, on the other hand, could propel her forward and represent the third major contest, after Texas and Ohio, during which Mr. Obama has failed to seal the deal with Democratic voters.

This primary, a Des Moines Register political columnist, David Yepsen, pointed out in an interview, is best thought of as analogous to the Iowa caucuses, where expectations mean more than the actual results.

Though Mrs. Clinton held a 20-point lead in some Pennsylvania polls six weeks ago, observers say she could certainly bill a 10-percentage-point win as a triumph, considering that Mr. Obama has spent millions more dollars on advertising in the state. ‘Perception-wise, if these polls hold up that would be a pretty decisive win with being outspent,’ the director of Suffolk University’s political research center, David Paleologos,  said. ‘I think it’s on to Indiana.’

A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Steven Grossman, who is a Clinton super-delegate, said that a big win would cut into Mr. Obama’s popular vote advantage and help with fundraising. ‘It keeps her legion of smaller contributors energized and continuing to fund her.’

A supporter of Mr. Obama who is president of New Future Communications, Jamal Simmons, said ‘if the race is closer than 10 points that will be a blow to the Clinton campaign and people will begin to call for her to lower the rhetoric, take down some of the negative ads and run on her issues, otherwise she will just start to look like a sore loser.’

‘Anything short of her Ohio victory margin [10 points] will leave Clinton in a weak position to prevent a further and more accelerated erosion of support among super delegates,’ a Brookings Institution senior fellow, Thomas Mann, said. ‘If Obama wins or loses narrowly, I suspect he will have a majority of delegates in two weeks, with his harvest in North Carolina and Indiana and a rush of support from uncommitted superdelegates.’ “

PA Primary Update: Millvale

April 21, 2008

Yesterday my reporting took me to the Western Pennsylvania community of Millvale. Millvale lies only minutes from the heart of Pittsburgh, but its distance across the Allegheny River makes this compact former industrial town feel much farther away.

The big issue in town is flooding, which has contributed to pervasive job loss. Local officials present said Senator Clinton understood the needs of a small town like this more than her opponent, Mr. Obama.

Bill Clinton showed up for a campaign event at the old St. Ann’s Church. It looks like one of the many proud old Catholic and Orthodox churches that dot this area, but is now a night club, Mr. Smalls Funhouse, owned by members of the jam band Rusted Root. The church is now a club because the area’s dwindling population has meant the consolidation of parishes.

Clinton spoke for just over ten minutes. His was a classic political stump speech. “If you’re hearing somebody say you better quit because you can’t win, it’s because they’re afraid you will win,” he said.

After the crowd poured out of the church, onlookers lined up along the hilly street adjacent to it to catch a glimpse of him leaving. He exited wearing glasses but quickly took them off when he noticed there was such a large crowd waiting. He gave them the classic Clinton, bit lip and thumbs up. Then before he got in his vehicle he crossed the street to hug 85-year-old May Mayhugh, standing out on her porch. Mayhugh who had just gotten out of the hospital.

“I have prospered under Bill Clinton, and I’ll be happy to have another Clinton in the White House,”  Millvale’s mayor, Vincent Cinski, said after Clinton had departed. 

It’s important to point out that despite the economic plight of Millvale, it has a branch of the fabulous Pittsburgh chain of diners, Pamela’s, famous for the breakfast and pancakes. But due to the observance of Passover, I have no report on this PA food find today.


Steelers for Obama

April 19, 2008

Last night I stopped by Heinz Field, where a group of former Steelers, among them Dwight White, Robin Cole and Franco Harris rallied along with Senator Robert Casey for Barak Obama. Dan Majors has coverage in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Harris, the Steelers legendary running back, likened supporting Obama to being a member of the four-time Super Bowl-winning 1970s team, which sadly due to unmentionable events in February still stands as the greatest pro football dynasty. “It’s wonderful to be part of a winning team once again.” Interestingly, Franco, like Obama, comes from a multi-racial background, but I couldn’t get close enough to him to ask him about it.

The Steelers, owned by Dan Rooney, who also appeared at last night’s rally, are the most important cultural institution in Western Pennsylvania. The best analogy to Boston is the Red Sox; Franco even used the phrase “Steeler Nation” several times in his remarks. Paging Dan Shaunessy.

The composition of the crowd was biracial, a large number of African-Americans, suburban whites, a few big goons in black and gold, and, as always, white hipsters, such as the t-shirted alternative band Frequency. Events like this are all about getting out Obama’s most fervent supporters and peeling white blue collar voters away from Hillary Clinton.

This diverse group was unified on two fronts — Obama and the Steelers. When the participants took the stage, the crowd took up a new Obama chant: “Here we go, Obama, here we go!” This was a play on the popular pro-Steelers chant.

The Teamsters had a large presence there as well. After the event, I met a Teamster from Arlington, MA, who proudly wore his Red Sox hat as he disassembled the stage.