Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fwd: PSF: On to Pennsylvania

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From: Jon Delano
Date: Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Subject: PSF: On to Pennsylvania

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Dear Politically Savvy Friends,
It's been quite awhile since I penned an email to my PSF (or Politically Savvy Friends) list, but I thought the Ides of March was a good time to chime in. 
Those of you familiar with these occasional newsletters know that this is a labor of love -- written and sent to you without cost to my PSFs.  If you are new to this list, I hope you will enjoy the contents -- and send me any "off-the-record" comments you have may.  There is certainly a lot happening in Campaign 2012, especially as it pertains to Pennsylvania. But I have no desire to be spam, so if you have no interest in this election ,there is a way to remove yourself below.
The principal focus in this email is Rick Santorum, a man I have known for over 30 years.  Having defeated the congressman I once worked for in 1990, thereby changing my career path, Rick has often taking credit for my media and academic career over the last two decades. I have no problem with that, and I have (as you will read below) incredible respect for his political skills.
But before I go on . . . two brief announcements I always make at this time of year. First, if you are still planning a summer vacation, please know that we have a family home on the island of Nantucket like many Pittsburghers, including Dick Scaife & Teresa Heinz.  Believe me, our home is considerably more modest than theirs and, unlike them, we need to lease it (to cover expenses) to friends for part of the summer.  If you'd like more details on a Nantucket rental, email me at
Second, I love to talk politics (no surprise), so if your organization needs a speaker on anything political --  Campaign 2012 or its aftermath -- check in with me for details at the same email.
Now . . . on to my take  of this unusual campaign for president. 
Beating Obama:
 I'm always amused by that "inside the Washington Beltway" talk that President Obama is the odds-on favorite to win reelection in 2012.  Nothing from my perspective in the hinterlands suggests that the president has anything more than a 50-50 shot at reelection, and there are days when I put the odds against him.
Sure, the Republicans have made several tactical mistakes in the late winter months.  But in the end, the errors of February-March won't matter much in October-November.
Presidential elections like these are always referenda on the incumbent, and in the end, Americans will assess how well their families are doing, how well the country is doing, and how well Obama is doing in helping them to do well.  It's almost that simple.
That's one reason why it is so hard today to predict what will happen on November 6. It's eight months away, and who knows how we will feel then about anything!  The improving economy bodes well for the President, but higher gasoline prices have given Republicans an issue. Again, this election is a long way from a wrap for the Democrats.
 But one thing, in my view, is certain.  The Republican nominee -- no matter whom that person is -- already has 195 electoral votes of the 270 needed for election.  There is just no way that Texas (38) or Georgia (16), are going to vote for Obama in 2012, let alone most of those other southern, rocky mountain, and plains states. 
At the same time, I count only 175 certain electoral votes for the President, which include states like California (55), New York (35), and Massachusetts (11).  These states will never vote this year for a Republican. Some analysts boost Obama's electoral vote up to 227 by giving him six states that lean blue (or Democratic) right now:  Maine (4), Michigan (16), Minnesota (10), New Mexico (5), and Oregon (7).  I think the Democrats are overly optimistic,  but even giving all five to Obama, he is still short 43 electoral votes.
That leaves the battleground states, which in order of electoral clout are: Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), Arizona (10), Colorado (9), Iowa (6), Nevada (6), and New Hampshire (4).
Pennsylvania Up for Grabs:
The 'Keystone State' could swing either way in 2012.
First, a quick historical review.  Four years ago, Obama-Biden beat McCain-Palin by 10 points and 620,000 votes in Pennsylvania, a remarkable victory for the Democrats.  It was based on strong support in the city of Philadelphia, where Obama clobbered McCain by 479,000 votes, and the Philadelphia suburban (generally Republican) counties of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery that voted Democratic by a 203,000-vote margin.  Add in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh plus suburbs), which Obama carried by more than 100,000 votes, and it's easy to see how the Democrats won.
Fast forward to today, and nothing is certain at all for the President.  While Philadelphia will certainly vote Democratic, will it turn out to vote in the numbers it did in 2008?  Are the Republican suburbs of Philly so enamored with Obama after four years that they will vote Democratic again?  And what about the rest of the state which could hold the key to a Republican victory in 2012?
In 2008, Obama lost traditionally Democratic counties in Western Pennsylvania, where conservative values (yes, we do 'cling' to our Bibles & guns) and perhaps some racism (remember the late Jack Murtha's comments about this region?) play a role.  In any case, I see little chance at this stage for Obama to win these counties in 2012.  Right now, I think a Republican could even win Allegheny County, although that requires a near-collapse of organized labor.
Since 2010, Pennsylvania has a Republican governor (Tom Corbett), a Republican state Senate, a Republican state House, a Republican-controlled Supreme Court, a Republican U.S. senator (Pat Toomey), and 12 of 19 members of Congress are Republican.
This is true despite some numerical advantages for the Democrats.  Of the state's 8.2 million registered voters, 4.1 million are Democrats, 3.0 million are Republicans, and 1.0 million are independents or affiliated with other parties.  The key for Democrats is turning out their own vote and winning independents.  Obviously, state Republicans have been doing a much better job of that lately, and 2012 will test whether 2010 was a fluke or a pattern.
Choosing a GOP Nominee Could Involve PA:
It remains unclear whether Pennsylvania Republicans will play a determinative role in choosing the Republican nominee for president on April 24. But after the latest primaries,  I think it's likely  all four candidates (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul) will battle it out in the Keystone State.
On Saturday, March 17, Missouri (which supported Santorum in a non-binding primary) will caucus for delegates (52 delegates). Puerto Rico votes Sunday (23 delegates).  On March 20, Illinois votes (69 delegates) followed by Louisiana on March 24 (46 delegates).
That brings us to April.  Romney will be well ahead in delegates but n where near the magic 1,144 he will need for nomination.  And some big delegate states vote in April, May, and June.
On April 3, Wisconsin, Maryland, and the District of Columbia vote (98 delegates), followed by what could be called the Northeast Primary on Tuesday on April 24:  231 delegates are at stake on that date in New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Delaware.
My guess is that Pennsylvania Republicans (yes, it's a closed primary) will get a chance to cast a meaningful vote in this presidential selection process, and the latest Quinnipiac Poll shows Santorum leading Romney, 36 to 22, even though Romney seems to have more support (so far) from state leaders. 
Pennsylvania has a statewide 'beauty contest' that allocates NO delegate votes, but will no doubt be trumpeted by the media.  Unlike most states, Pennsylvania Republicans elect delegates in each of the 18 congressional districts without knowing whom that delegate is backing for president.  GOP voters vote for a specific delegate candidate like (former Allegheny Co. executive) Jim Roddey, who's running in the 14th CD, without knowing who his candidate is (he's actually endorsed Romney). A bit whacky, if you ask me.
Can Santorum Really Be Elected President?
If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked me if Rick Santorum could really win the White House, I might be as rich as he is.  Yes, to his credit, Santorum has released more tax returns than his opponents. In his first year out of the Senate, he reported approximately $659,000 (2007) in income, up to $952,000 in 2008, then $1.1 million in 2009, and around $923,000 in 2010. By most standards, the Santorums are very wealthy -- hardly the blue-collar type -- but, hey, I'm just envious!
The short answer to the question posed is . . . yes, Rick Santorum certainly could be elected president, even if his mathematical odds of winning the nomination are getting  harder. 
But never underestimate Rick Santorum.
I called Rick the day after the Iowa caucuses to congratulate him on what ultimately turned out to be a win.  I told him that, over the years, he has consistently outperformed expectations, and that's a good reputation to have.  His response to me was simple. "It's my secret weapon."
I also believe that Santorum is running for president in 2016.  Like Romney did in 2008, this is Santorum's "test run" -- a chance to develop the state-by-state network and national presence that propels him in the future.  Santorum, of course, will deny that this year is anything but a practice round.  He should deny it, as a good 2012 candidate. But, mark my words, Santorum will not give up this quest after only one attempt.
A Few Thoughts on Santorum's Political Roots:
I first heard of Rick Santorum on Election Day 1988.  My friend and boss, Congressman Doug Walgren, was winning his 7th term in the House in a suburban district of Pittsburgh drawn by the Republicans to elect a Republican. Walgren, first elected in 1976 when John Heinz moved on to the U.S. Senate, was the first Democrat since World War II to win that suburban seat. Through hard work and strong constituent service, he had managed to hold onto a district even as Republican candidates for other offices swept the district.
At the 1988 victory party, one of the campaign workers said she had heard that somebody was at the polls at Markham Elementary School in Mt. Lebanon, (a school I attended and where I still vote), telling people he was going to run and beat Walgren in 1990.  That young man was Richard John Santorum, a lawyer who had recently bought a modest home three blocks from me, presumably to run for office.
To say that everyone underestimated Santorum in those early years is to state the obvious. His own party didn't give him a chance or any money, for that matter. But Santorum sort of sneaks up his prey, as he did with Mitt Romney in Iowa and other states, and then lunges with a ferocity that can take you aback.
I'm not going to relive that 1990 campaign, except to stress two points.  First, Santorum built his campaign from the ground up. It's a quality I greatly admire in him. From the beginning, Christian conservatives have been his stalwarts.
While he admits that he was pro-choice on abortion and not particularly religious coming into his first campaign [see Eric Konigsberg's article in the December 1994 Philadelphia Magazine], that changed quickly in early 1990. Walgren was a pro-choice Catholic, and Santorum was never going to beat him on that basis.  So Rick declared he was pro-life, although not quite as pro-life as he is today, and rediscovered his faith.
As a practicing Christian myself, I will not question Santorum's original motives. I am happy he found his faith.  My own view is that, whatever motivated him in 1990, he clearly believes what he says today, and nobody should for a moment believe that, when it comes to religion, the pre-1990 Santorum bears any resemblance to the Santorum of 2012.
His affirmation of faith and his generally pro-life views gained him the foot soldiers he needed in his campaign against Walgren.  I have always felt that Santorum's narrow win, five votes per election district, was directly attributable to the Christian conservatives who rallied to his campaign.  He owes them, and hasn't forgotten that.
Santorum's views on religion went well beyond abortion in 1990, too. I remember one piece that attacked the incumbent because he "voted for federal funding for teaching about homosexuality and bisexuality" and "voted for liberal bills that increased government regulation, limited parental choice, and discriminated against stay-at-home mothers and church-based providers of child care." 
In a piece that was addressed to "persons concerned for traditional Christian and moral values," Santorum declared in 1990, "Having returned to my church after a period of absence, I now understand the connection between a personal, vibrant faith commitment and the moral fiber our nation needs."
And then he declared, in language that certainly distinguishes him from the words of John F. Kennedy that he finds so offensive, "While I will represent all the people of my district, I will do so in a principled fashion, derived from my religious commitment." 
I recall at the time that a number of Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh were so concerned about this language that they sent a letter to their members on behalf of Walgren.
The second point is that Rick's first campaign was based on a theme that ultimately led to his undoing -- residency.
Santorum, who had only just moved to Pittsburgh's suburbs to run for office -- he lived up north  in Butler during part of his youth and in Harrisburg when he was a state Senate staffer -- made Walgren's residency "the" issue in the 1990 campaign.  Unlike Rick, Doug had grown up in the district (Mt. Lebanon) and returned home to practice law and ultimately run for Congress several times before he won in 1976.  Doug's family home was always his residence, although he and his wife did have an apartment nearby.
After his children were born, Walgren moved his wife and young children to the Virginia suburbs to be with him, at least five days of the week when Congress was in session.  Santorum accused Walgren of 'not living in the district.'  After Rick or one of his supporters door-knocked a resident in the summer of 1990, for example, that person would receive a letter that stated, in bold-face, "My opponent, who lives full-time in McLean, Virginia, spent only 29 days in Allegheny County in 1989."
Walgren could never figure out where Santorum came up with these numbers, a number that changed several times during the campaign.  It was pretty absurd and easy to dismiss as unbelievable. But given the general unhappiness with Congress that year, the basic Santorum attack line -- Walgren is  out of touch with his district because he doesn't live here anymore -- hit home with enough people.
One week before the election, Karen Santorum (who had married Rick that August) sent a postcard to voters, announcing the happy news that she was pregnant with their first child and repeating, "Rick believes we deserve someone who will live in our community."
Of course, as many western Pennsylvanians know, this was a pledge that Santorum abandoned as soon as his children started to arrive.  Walgren had predicted this before his loss.  During the 1990 campaign, he told a reporter, "I can guarantee you that if Mr. Santorum is elected to the House of Representatives and if he has children, he will bring those children to Washington and he will stay with those children in Washington during the week because if he doesn't, he will never see them."
After Santorum reneged on his pledge, the editorials were pretty scathing.  A 1995 Post Gazette editorial was headlined: "Virginia Rick:  In moving, Santorum mimics 'out of touch' opponent."
Later, Santorum bought a house in Penn Hills (another Pittsburgh suburb) next door to Karen's parents, but that only made matters worse because neighbors said he was never there. The growing Santorum family actually lived first in Herndon, Virginia, and later in Leesburg, Virginia. 
The whole residency issue still gets raised repeatedly in this area. Rick used that Penn Hills home to register to vote while he was in the Senate.  At one election when he showed up to vote, a local Democratic leader challenged his right to vote, saying he didn't live in that house.  Santorum won that challenge. But later when he had local Penn Hills taxpayers pay for cyber-schooling his kids in their Virginia home, that proved too much for local officials. Rather than fight that one in court and the media, Santorum ultimately reimbursed the school district.
No surprise, in his successful 2006 campaign against Santorum, Bob Casey turned the residency issue back on Santorum.
The Post Gazette editorialized about this, when the newspaper tried to send Santorum a questionnaire for their voters guide to his Penn Hills address.  Editorialized the PG: "Back from Penn Hills came the letter with a sticker from the U.S. Postal Service checked as 'Not Deliverable As Addressed -- Unable to Forward.' That is all you need to know about the nasty dispute between the Republican Sen. Santorum and his Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., in the November election.  The whole thing is rooted in one inconvenient fact for Sen. Santorum:  He doesn't live here anymore."
Nationally, the residency issue means nothing.  But, in Pennsylvania, it defined Santorum as a hypocrite, fair or unfair.  And, if it comes down to Romney & Santorum here on April 24th, somehow I think we just might hear more about this in some SuperPac advertisement!
Ironically, it is because Rick Santorum lost so badly to Bob Casey (by 17.4%) that nobody really gave his presidential campaign much chance of success.  His decision to 'camp out' in Iowa during much of 2011, door knock, and network reminds me so much of 1990.  Dismissed by most, Rick just stuck in there, connecting with that religious conservative corps that came through for him two decades earlier.
It's another quality I like about Santorum -- he believes in himself and his ultimate success.  And as crazy as some of his words sound to many, he also believes what he says. That's a bit refreshing in a politician.
Whether Rick Santorum wins the GOP nomination or not, he has already reframed some of the issues in 2012.  Who would have thought birth control would become so controversial?  If nothing else, he has pushed Romney further to the right, which may have its own consequences in the months ahead.
For Pennsylvanians, the chance to vote on Santorum again will be interesting.  One of his closest advisors told me not to expect a repeat of 2006.  It's not that Rick has changed since his loss to Casey, says the Santorum insider.  We Pennsylvanians have changed.  We shall see.
That's enough for today.  I'll have more on the 2012 election, especially some of the other races in Pennsylvania sometime before the primary.  In the meantime, feel free to be in touch via email at  I'd love to hear from you.
All the best,
Jon Delano
Political Analyst
H. John Heinz College of Public Policy & Management
Carnegie Mellon University
[As always, these views are my own and not those of the wonderful organizations with whom I am associated].

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