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It’s nice to see Rush Limbaugh urging PA Republicans to switch parties and vote in the April 22 primary. I guess he wants them to vote for Hillary Clinton. But I wonder, though, if this isn’t case of being careful what you wish for. She’s probably going to be tougher in a general election than people give her credit for.

At any rate, I hope all those newfound Dems in PA enjoy their near-daily robocalls from Gov. Ed Rendell, former Pres. Bill Clinton and a host of other prominent people, not to mention the weekly calls from campaign volunteers urging us to make up our minds already. We’ve gotten two so far, one from each camp, and the election is still more than four weeks away.

I wonder how many Republicans will switch back, unable to take the incoming barrage.

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Can someone explain to me why, in a time of war, a defense contractor needs a state grant? Here is the story. BAE Systems, maker of various military vehicles used in Iraq, stands to get a $2.5 million grant and tax credits valued at $1.8 million from the generous commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Sadly, the company’s latest order is for a measly $715 million. Lord knows how it’s making ends meet in these tough times.

UPDATE: You can sound off here.

I hope everyone blows out the candles and gets what they wish for on this, the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war.

I’m hoping we end the myth that debate about the war serves any real purpose. All it does is distract Americans from debate over other issues that might affect them more (not to diminish the terrible sacrifices made by many Americans during the war itself) and over which they might exercise greater control.

A war unleashes forces that no one can hope to tame, let alone predict. This one has been no exception.

The latest polls show Hillary Clinton gaining momentum in Pennsylvania. But the yard signs on Route 30 tell a different story. Her lone supporter appears to have had second thoughts and taken down the sign I saw last week. In its wake is a sign for Barack Obama in front of a house on the eastern edge of New Oxford. He now is in the lead, 1-0.

The sign is significant given that this stretch of highway is fairly hostile territory for any Democrat, let alone one facing his own Sistah Souljah moment. Is it just me or does Obama seem more like Bill Clinton circa ’92 every day?

The campaign that is drawing more attention along the Lincoln Highway pits Cathy Cresswell against Rich Alloway. The two Republicans are competing for a state Senate seat whose current occupant, Terry Punt, is retiring. The two candidates probably have more than three dozen signs along Route 30. Wherever one appears, the other is sure to follow.

Barack Obama is banking on the country being ready to put division behind it. But I suspect this will be a particularly divisive election year, even more so than in the past.

There is plenty to unite us, from the war to the collapsing economy. But the suffering — lost homes, lost jobs, lost lives — hasn’t been enough to bring people together for a common cause, no matter what that cause might be.

What really divides us are the solutions to all of these problems, and it isn’t clear that we’re willing to coalesce around one particular fix for any of them.

Not that Americans need much reason to be divided. We had little apparent cause to argue with each other in 2000 yet somehow ended up with a very polarizing presidency.

People just disagree on politics, not always for rational reasons. No amount of economic or military disaster is going to change that. Indeed, if disasters provoked logical responses derived from a careful reading of the evidence, human beings certainly would have learned a bit more how to handle them by now.

All brands eventually will converge into a single symbol. Until then, we can only marvel at the similarities.

On the left is the logo for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. On the right is one from a local bank in Harrisburg, Pa.:

obama-logo.jpgcentric-logo.jpg

I took this picture yesterday on Route 30 outside a diner near Abbottstown, Pa. So, it appeared even before the president made news today by acknowledging reality. That his concession made news is a sure sign we’re in trouble. The only question is, what kind of trouble?

Bush is right that people are fundamentally optimistic. But they also are impatient. Eventually they will want him to do something, especially those people lacking family inherited wealth to help them ride out the tough times. At least they can get two-for-one meals along Route 30.

I hope it isn’t true — that Obama thinks he can concede PA and still come out ahead. He probably can come out ahead, at least in delegates. But ditching the hard states doesn’t show a lot of fighting spirit. Every state will be hard for him in November if he secures the nomination.

I think McCain’s fighting spirit is what propelled him to the GOP nomination, after he was all but dead nearly a year ago. Conversely, the avoidance of tough battles is what did in Giuliani, despite his star power.

Obama shouldn’t make the same mistake. Sure, PA doesn’t appear to be fertile ground for him. But the apparent decision to pull back in PA is not a good sign. It shows he is taking too much for granted, whether that is a matter of fact or of perception.

I will admit that calculating which states are winnable and which are not seems to hurt him more than Hillary Clinton. Pundits already suspect there is a sizable bloc of people opposed to her no matter what. If she decides to avoid them, so what? They don’t view Obama quite the same way — yet.

Observers have fingered a bunch of stats to determine who is leading in the presidential primary: Google searches, Facebook friends, Eventful demands, YouTube views, whatever. I have my own metric now to forecast who will win the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania on April 22: Yard signs along the 25-mile stretch of Route 30, the old Lincoln Highway, between Gettysburg and York.

The detail-minded might point out that this geographic slice of the Keystone State is in no way representative of anything. I agree. It is probably whiter, older and more rural-working class than the state as a whole. True. But there also are pockets of Hispanics in New Oxford and Abbottstown as well as a coffee shop in New Oxford– just the type of place Obama supporters apparently like to meet (business reporters take note).

If there actually are any Democrats in this part of the state, they probably support Clinton. So, the appearance of any signs for Obama can be construed as a positive indicator: he is making inroads into parts of the electorate that have been less fervent in supporting him.
So, without further ado, here is the count as of 1:16pm on March 11:

Hillary Clinton: 1

Barack Obama: 0

The Clinton sign appeared on a flat part of Route 30 west of the York Airport. Yes, York has an airport. The sign was on the south side of the road.

It had to happen eventually, a story that both Nancy Grace and Wolf Blitzer could pursue with equal gusto. Still, it’s hard to feel sorry for Eliot Spitzer. He’s the one who let his fingers do the street-walking, trashing his dignity — and his career — at the same time. I guess he won’t be getting anyone’s call to fill the vice presidential slot this year.

Let it be another reminder not to trust the self-righteous of any political persuasion.

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