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* Pittsburgh and the Southwest: Clinton. This part of Pennsylvania, the home of former Senator Rick Santorum, is heavily Catholic with lots of union voters. There are, even now, Reagan Democrats aplenty to be found here in what Terry and Mike call the “aging mining and mill towns” that dot the region where George Washington earned international fame at the ripe age of 22. It is not unlike Ohio, which lies on the western border.
* Scranton and the Northeast: Clinton. This is the home turf of current U.S. Senator Bob Casey, Jr. (who is neutral) and of his late and very popular namesake Dad, Governor Casey. Democrats here are conservative or centrist in Lackawanna County (Scranton) and Luzerne County (Hazleton — where the GOP’s Mayor Lou Barletta, he of immigration issue fame, is running for Congress against incumbent Democrat Paul Kanjorski). Scranton is the hometown of the Rodham family — yes, you heard that right. Daddy Hugh Rodham Sr. lived in Scranton and won a football scholarship to Penn State. His little girl has vacationed here, according to Terry and Mike, and that helps Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton as a sort of local favorite, which is why she was booked to appear last night at Scranton High School.
* Lehigh Valley and South Central: Battleground. This area encompasses the Allentown/Bethlehem area and Harrisburg/Lancaster/York. The Lehigh Valley elected Arlen Specter’s conservative nemesis and current Club for Growth president Pat Toomey to Congress, and South Central, where The American Spectator has a beachhead just down State Street in Harrisburg from the State Capitol, is the heart of Carville’s concept of a northern Alabama. The population here, as Terry and Mike make clear and as I can personally attest is growing all the time, with a tendency to, as the guys say, “vote against the grain.” It is a mix of suburban and rural counties, the area that a Republican candidate needs to frequent (along with the Philadelphia suburbs) if he is going to counterbalance the Democrats in Philadelphia. As mentioned John McCain will be here Thursday at the West Shore Country Club.
Terry and Mike’s bottom line assessment is a hair-raising one for Democrats. The state will probably go for Clinton. But. The problem is that the 158 delegates to be selected here will have to follow the party’s proportionality rules. Which in turn makes Pennsylvania what they term a “bridge to nowhere,” in terms of the nomination. The two believe that a scenario unfolds that will leave Obama ahead in delegates nationally, with Clinton carrying Pennsylvania and gaining momentum — yet unable to catch Obama, who in turn will not have the mathematical ability to clinch the nomination. In others words, say Madonna and Young, the home of the Pennsylvania polka will become the Pennsylvania checkmate.
WHILE IT CERTAINLY SEEMS eons ago, once upon a time Pennsylvania used to play a bit of a role in the primary season. Eugene McCarthy captured headlines by winning it in 1968, Hubert Humphrey scored briefly by winning it in 1972 and in 1976 Washington Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson was knocked out for good by Jimmy Carter. So we’re in for an exciting seven weeks of rough and tumble here. At noon today, Hillary Clinton will be the focus of a rally here in Harrisburg. Along with Governor Rendell, the longtime and very popular Democratic mayor of Harrisburg, Steve Reed, will be at her side. He is already enthusing on the front pages of our local paper, the venerable Harrisburg Patriot-News, that his candidate has “extensive experience.” Ace political reporter Brett Lieberman quotes the Mayor as following the Clinton talking points to the letter: “The political landscape is littered with a lot of good ideas because people didn’t have the experience to get them done. Hillary Clinton has the experience.” Shades of Old Buck.
According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll from last month, Lieberman says, Clinton is leading Obama 49-43. A Patriot-News map of the state shows only Philadelphia leaning heavily to Obama. Into all of this mix, Governor Rendell casually allowed a few weeks ago that there are white Pennsylvanians who simply wouldn’t vote for Obama for racial reasons. Yikes!
So Pennsylvanians are racing to the store for popcorn and confetti, enjoying that strange world usually inhabited by New Hampshire-ites and Iowans where the candidates are on TV one minute and walking down your Main Street in person the next.
If I had to bet today? Hillary.
Oh, and the cheez whiz? As any Pennsylvanian can tell you, when in Philadelphia the thing to do is have what is known to the outside world as a Philadelphia cheesesteak. Thin slices of beef grilled with onions and served on a hoagie roll (along with, if asked, a conglomeration of hot peppers that will leave you sweating), the cheesesteak is a genuine cultural and culinary work of art. And what else? Well, cheese, of course. And not just any kind of cheese. The Philadelphia cheesesteak is famously topped with that world class symbol of elegance — cheez whiz. Yes, that gooey concoction that has been the solution to uncountable millions of harried Moms after a quick fix for the kids’ lunch. Alas, this was not something understood by the famously Brahmin John “Francois” Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. Campaigning, he showed up dutifully at Pat’s, the King of Steaks. In a mistake of several orders of political magnitude that re-enforced his blossoming image as an out-of-touch aristocrat, Kerry strolled up to the counter in full view of television and still cameras and ordered a cheesesteak with — Swiss cheese. The next day, in vivid color on the front page of the Philadelphia Daily News was a photograph of Kerry, with a cheesesteak jammed ingloriously into his wide open mouth, underneath this astonished headline: “PREZ HOPEFUL ASKS FOR SWISS CHEESE!” No further explanation was needed.
You remember President Kerry, don’t you?
This year the immigration issue has co-mingled with the cheesesteak issue. Pat’s neighborhood South Philly competitor, Geno’s, made headlines when the owner put a sign in the window reading: “This Is AMERICA: WHEN ORDERING ‘SPEAK ENGLISH.’”
Hmmm. Which Democrat will be ordering at Geno’s? Will they go to Pat’s? Or will they obey the sign and order in English, potentially alienating the Latino vote across the country? Stay tuned.
If you’re in our neighborhood here in Harrisburg, stop in to visit. And you might want to remember the opening line from the Pennsylvania polka, the state’s unofficial song.
“It started in Scranton, a long time ago.”
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?