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The main thing missing in the ongoing debate over Barack Obama’s comments about small-town PA are voices of actual Pennsylvanians (other than Ed Rendell). I’ve seen quotes from consultants, politicians and pollsters, but next to nothing from people who live in our small towns. So for your edification, here’s a particularly perceptive op-ed from a young reporter in York who’s a native. Athough it ran a few weeks ago, it shows why Obama wasn’t far off the mark.

Yes, Obama’s comments were a tad condescending. How would it sound if John McCain said urbanites cling to their lattes and their fear of the suburbs because they’re bitter and frustrated that health insurance isn’t universal? Someone should just say that anyway, I suppose.

But rather than discuss the issues affecting small towns in Pennsylvania, we’re going to get an argument about who’s an elitist. It seems Obama’s biggest crime was uttering words that anyone with the slightest interest in tearing him down could spin quickly and easily. If only politicians could move as quickly when they had an actual problem to solve.

Pennsylvanians aren’t entirely silent in all this. We’ve seen a mayor trotted out in favor of Obama, a guy called John Fetterman from a town called Braddock, near Pittsburgh. But look at this web site and tell me if it seems typical of small towns in any state. Rick Gray of Lancaster also has been making cameos, but Lancaster also is fairly atypical when it comes to PA towns (but aren’t they all and isn’t that part of the point about not clinging to stereotypes?)

Hillary Clinton has been running ads showing her bucolic childhood days in Scranton,. She also assembled a mayors’ conference call, but the only one quoted that I’ve read is Mayor Stephen Reed of Harrisburg. Look at the Harrisburg skyline below and tell me if this is a small town:

[UPDATE: Here are the voices of the bitter themselves]

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