What Happened to All the Love?

President Bush’s approval rating keeps sinking… An AP article puts George W Bush’s approval rating at 28%. Has he started quacking yet?

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The Obama Phenomenon hits Berks County

OK, I’ve been involved as a volunteer in campaigns for some time now, local state, and federal. Everything from township supervisor to president of the United States. I know when a candidate gets support, and I can sense the level of support, from disinterest to, well, passionately absorbed. I have to tell you that the Obama campaign, which has a small cadre of paid staffers in the little town of Reading PA (pop. 75,000?) has taken the region by surprise. The story is in the numbers. As was reported in these pages a few days ago, Berks County had about 3000 new Democratic registrants since the beginning of the year, while the Republicans have had 179. Well in less than a week, those numbers will increase by several thousand. Teams of enthusiastic volunteers from Berks County, under the direction of Obama staffers, are swarming out to all high traffic areas in the city and county and registering new and cross-over voters in droves. Yesterday, thanks to my wife, I had the grunt task of adding those new registrations to the Vote Builder data base. Folks, the two of us spent over 4 hours there, and barely made a dent in the pile. This man, and this campaign are combing through the under-story of the local political landscape to find tons of new registrants (folks who never bothered to care, from their early twenties to oldsters in their eighties), and party-switchers (about 10% of the registrations I handled). The story is plain and simple. No other candidate on the political scene in my memory has tapped into voter radar like Barack Obama. And these new registrants are being entered in to the state and national Democratic databases, under the Obama tag. Don’t think party regulars (read super delegates) aren’t taking notice. Another update: The Philadelphia campaign office has already exceeded its registration goals. Bob Roggio (candidate U.S. House of Rep. 6th Cong. District) do you know where your coattails are being made? Pollsters tapping Pennsylvania’s mood, do you understand why you will be way off mark in your opinion polling for this upcoming primary? (For the under-informed, pollsters contact likely voters… those who have voted often in several previous elections, and they don’t call cell phones, which I entered a lot of yesterday.). Hey Hillary… ‘a cold wind is gonna blow.

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Can Obama Really Win PA?… Answer… Yes Look To Rendells Strategy In 2002

So all eyes are on PA, at least in the media’s eyes anyway… We all are too well aware of the fact that the race will continue after that, and that is something Obama’s campaign seems to be doing this week, as he should pulling a win out in Indiana would be a big blow to Clinton and is possible so I say go for it. His campaign also has lowered expectations here in PA, the polls haven’t been favorable showing anywhere from a 14-20 point lead for Senator Clinton, Obama himself said that if he can pull within 10% on primary day he would see that as a win for his campaign… We’re also told by the pundidts how this state is Hillary’s Country, with the Major Catholic background of the state and white blue collar workers… yada yada yada… One person even said PA is more like OH than OH is… That in itself has to be the stupidest thing I have ever heard… And while yes in the historical sence these pundits are right… They also seemed to have noticed that things have changed in PA. Major manufactoring here in this state for the most part has come and gone, while States like OH and MI are still behind in terms of their economy adapting to change… PA actually has been ahead of the curve (well at least their curve)… PA is much more liberal than OH is, one only has to look at the last two presidential contests to see that… OH went to Bush twice, PA went to Gore then Kerry… Although it was close it still shows that this state has become blue-er over time we haven’t been red since since 1988 for Bush I. There also been an explosion of afluent liberal minded people in the suburbs of Phl and the Lehigh Valley and also in South Central PA (Lancaser Co stretching back to the state’s capital in Harrisburg), also in terms of college areas there are alot of young voters (which have favored Obama) in area’s around Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and of course in Centre Count there is Penn State’s Main campus…

With all that said there are some things going against Obama here besides the polls. 1) largest Catholic Population in the country (Clinton has shown strength with these people) 2) I hate to say it but in my mind I worry that there is failry large problem with racism in this state, one thats under the surface but in the minds of many people… (mainly in the “alabama” middle of PA) 3) And this is a big one, the state Democratic party is behind Senetor Clinton so she can just take her Clinton machine and plug right in.

Those are some imposing problems but not impossible to overcome, the 3rd one many would think is more or less a nail in the coffin, but one only has to look to our Governor Ed Rendell to see that it is possible to not have that machine behind you. In 2002 he was up against Bob Casey in the democratic primary for the Governor spot on the democratic ticket. The states democrtaic party was beind Casey and Rendell was behind in the polls, indeed Rendell only won only 10 out of 67 counties in the state but it was still an overwhelming win for him, what he did was run up the score where he won. A little background…

The 2002 Pennsylvania gubernatorial slugfest was a battle between two titans of the Democratic Party. It pitted the son and heir apparent of the former Governor Casey against the liberal, urban, upstart Rendell. Casey (Clinton?) was the prohibitive favorite with deep roots in state politics, a political brand name second to none in Pennsylvania (the advantage of his own and his father’s victories), and widespread Democratic Party establishment support. Rendell (Obama?) was a politician of vague and uncertain outline to a majority of state voters, a brash upstart from a city many Pennsylvanians regarded as the citadel of sin and corruption.

Yet in the end and contrary to most expectations, Rendell scored an impressive victory beating Casey by some 150,000 votes. How he did it is of more than passing curiosity. In fact if Obama is going to beat Clinton in Pennsylvania, he must follow closely the Rendell electoral roadmap hacked out in 2002.

Rendell did it by accomplishing three things:

Massive Concentration of Effort–Pennsylvania has 67 counties, and Rendell managed to lose 57 of them. But the counties he won were the big counties, and he won them big, for a 54 to 46 statewide victory. Key was the impressive percentages he recorded in Philadelphia and the four suburban counties. He rolled up 75% in Philadelphia and more than 80% in the suburbs. Rendell ended with 300,000 votes in the Southeast, twice his necessary statewide margin.

Iron Control of the Swing Vote–Rendell topped off Philly and the suburbs by winning the Lehigh Valley and much of the southcentral part of the state, capturing 60% or more in many of those counties. Rendell’s regional dominance in eastern Pennsylvania was critical. Nine of the ten counties he won were east of the Susquehanna.

Managed Statewide Turnout–Finally Rendell also was able to turnout a higher percentage of Democratic voters in the Southeast than voted in the Southwest. This was accomplished in part by increasing Democratic registration–including luring some Republicans across party lines, but mostly by exciting the voters in the Philadelphia TV market that overwhelmingly favored his candidacy.

Measured against Rendell’s 2002 template, Obama’s chances are not unpromising. He is positioned to emulate the Rendell strategy to a greater extent than is generally recognized. Essentially he must win the same ten counties Rendell won in 2002, while reducing Clinton’s margins in her strongholds. Currently he leads in Philly and will likely win the city decisively, making the suburbs a major battleground. The Democratic voters there largely mirror the upscale, affluent voters Obama has been attracting nationally: they are the most liberal in the state, strongly oppose the Iraq War, and have a low regard for President Bush. For insurance Obama needs to join the Philadelphia suburbs to the two pivotal swing areas, the Lehigh Valley and Southcentral, where the Democrats are moderate to liberal and where he currently polls well against Senator Clinton. Beyond this managing turnout will be crucial for him.

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Rendell in 2002 was able to turnout a higher percentage of Democratic voters in the Southeast than voted in the Southwest. This is central to any Obama victory. To win he must push his turnout higher in the Southeast. Here enthusiasm and Obama volunteers could make a big difference. The Obama campaign has already begun a major voter registration drive to add Democrats to the roles. The current Democratic pickup is 65,000, most of whom will be Obama voters.

The stakes in Pennsylvania are high for both candidates–but perhaps highest for Obama. A Pennsylvania victory virtually assures him the nomination. It also would help inoculate him against an unfavorable resolution (for him) to the sputtering messes in Michigan and Florida. And a Pennsylvania victory gives the lie to the argument Obama can’t win in an Electoral College battleground state.