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Barack Obama finally has some company along Route 30 between York and Gettysburg. It’s Ron Paul. The longshot Republican has a single sign up near the York airport. That’s somewhat odd, as Paul signs usually pop up in clumps of three or four. There must be about half a dozen Paul signs lining ramps for the I-83 split near Harrisburg.

Don’t laugh. Paul is still on the PA ballot. He may even do better here than his customary 4% of the GOP vote.

So, Paul edges out John McCain 1-0, while Obama maintains his 1-0 lead over Hillary Clinton in the official “Count of Presidential Yard Signs Along Route 30 between Gettysburg and York.”

As has been the case throughout this unprecedented primary season for PA, local races are getting all the attention. I’ve even spotted a new entrant in the state Senate race, restaurant owner Robert “Bob” Curley, also a Republican.

Curley appears to be lagging his rivals in fundraising, but he’s catching up in signage. Over the weekend about a dozen signs appeared with his name along the Lincoln Highway.

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Here is the sign about hospitals depending on trucks for oxygen:

Riding around in circles and honking horns was a great attention-getter for protesting truckers in Harrisburg on Monday. Some even got an audience with Hillary Clinton. But I wonder whether something more disorderly is needed for an actual change in fuel prices.

Lawmakers are busy “grilling” big oil in a congressional hearing. Why doesn’t someone demand a hearing in front of a panel of regular citizens?

At any rate, the truckers hoping to march on DC remind me of the farmers who converged there in 1979. I was too young to grasp the details or remember the outcome of the protest, dubbed tractorcade. But it seems to me that farming hasn’t gotten much easier over the last 30 years.

farmer-strike.jpg

The presidential primary on the Lincoln Highway is frozen in place. Barack Obama still counts one lone supporter and Hillary Clinton has none. Except for that one Obama sign, every single yard sign touts one or another Republican candidate for the PA Legislature.

The best sign on Route 30 right now is in front of a trucking company. It states that, if trucks stop, hospitals will run out of oxygen in one week. Now that’s the kind of message that gets your attention.  This particular company regularly changes its sign to warn of the dire consequences of a truck stoppage, but this one just takes your breath away. Imagine. Life without oxygen.

The presidential campaigns and their supporters could learn a thing or two about messaging from whoever runs that company. I can’t get that sign out of my head, but I’ve almost completely forgotten about the will.i.am video.

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.

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.

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.

A friend of mine, summing up his Democratic primary vote for Hillary Clinton, said it was a vote for the person who could best fend off the right-wing attack machine. Then it all clicked for me as to why so many people support Barack Obama.

Obama draws his most fervent support from a white middle-class seeking an end to the ugly ideological war between left and right. The desire for an end is understandable. That war has produced mainly economic misery for most people and little in the way of real political solutions. But some people have benefited, and as long as they do — and think they still can — the war will continue.

Thus the declaration of a truce is probably premature, especially coming from the side that has been losing — even if it doesn’t want to admit it. I don’t foresee the right giving up tactics and strategies that have served it well in elections since 1994. The white working class that supports Hillary Clinton seems to understand this and that may be part of the reason they support her. She’ll keep fighting the war, or at least acknowledge its existence.

The middle and professional classes, armed with college degrees and career aspirations, believe they live in a classless, post-industrial society (anyone who thinks Marxist professors rub off on their students should think again). That explains their impatience with the current political system and their desire to end it.

Our political divisions may have been born in an industrialized world that has since passed away. But that doesn’t mean we are all economically equal or on our way there. The rich still fight to preserve and extend their privileges — or hire intellectual proxies to do it for them.

The working class, people with a high-school education, don’t have quite the same blinders. They see the world more as it is and less as they wish it to be.

This could all be wishful thinking on my part. But I think it explains Clinton’s resilience and Obama’s momentum. Their fight embodies a tension within the group of people broadly defined as not-rich. It would be nice to end the ideological war, since stalemate has largely served the interests of the rich. And I can understand the hope that an end to the war may actually bring change. But I don’t think people can — or should — unilaterally withdraw.

The conventional wisdom, meanwhile, says Clinton can’t win a general election against McCain and that Obama can. But how many times has the conventional wisdom been wrong about this presidential race?

That’s some nice hope you got there, kid. I wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to it.
That, increasingly, is the message peddled by those hoping to stop Barack Obama. You can see a recent manifestation here and here, but conservative commentators aren’t alone. It’s also the subtext of the campaign being waged against him by both Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
The warnings are ironic enough coming from Clinton (who married the man from Hope).
But McCain’s posturings are equally ironic, considering his self-described role as a foot-soldier in the Reagan revolution. If I recall, that was a revolution fueled by hope and optimism (morning in America, anyone?). McCain seems more at home playing the role of a crotchety Jimmy “malaise in America” Carter, pace “some jobs are never coming back,” “we’ll be in Iraq for 100 years.”
I guess one morning was enough for McCain.

Only someone living inside the Beltway, on the island or Manhattan, or anyplace else where white-collar bosses rule would have given Mitt Romney half a chance. I think elite Republicans like the president-as-CEO model and even deluded themselves into thinking that was the appeal of George W. Bush (hint: it wasn’t). The true aw-shucks Bush character in this race is Mike Huckabee.

On the Dem side, a Clinton supporter on NPR criticized Obama for always coming at Hillary from the right. Hmm. Let me get this straight. The Clintons, who tacked right for eight years (welfare reform, anyone?), are upset because someone is out-triangulating them? Boo hoo.

The greater irony is that this particular supporter proclaimed Clinton the practical idealist in the campaign, implying that Obama was an impractical idealist. That would be wonderful if Clinton’s practicality hadn’t so often led her to the right. So, again, I am a bit confused on why anyone would consider Clinton somehow to the left of anyone. Her positions are too amorphous for that, except maybe on health care. But I would imagine compromise will be necessary for her to do anything on that. So, if you hope to see Clinton’s plan enacted as outlined on her campaign web site, don’t call yourself a practical idealist — and don’t wait to see a doctor about that little growth on your neck.

The criticism of Obama may be valid insofar as his plans seem to lack specifics. But he seemed well up on details in the California debate.

Obama and John McCain succeed because they talk in terms of a purpose for their campaigns larger than enacting a laundry list of proposals.

I can’t wait until the show comes to Pennsylvania.

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