Two Ironies of the Pennsylvania Primary

Today's Pennsylvania primary comes with a couple of state and local political storylines. First, I'm probably the millionth person to point out that the contest ...
by | April 22, 2008

Today's Pennsylvania primary comes with a couple of state and local political storylines.

First, I'm probably the millionth person to point out that the contest reprises the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary in the state. That race pitted former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell against State Auditor Bob Casey Jr. Rendell won a surprising come-from-behind victory and went on to win in November.

Today, of course, Gov. Rendell is Hillary Clinton's most prominent surrogate in Pennsylvania. Casey, now a U.S. senator, has the same role for Obama.

Their competing allegiances have once again raised the question of whether there is bad blood between the two Democrats. But, if there is, you certainly can't tell from their public statements. On CBS on Sunday, for example, Rendell declared that Obama is "very lucky to have the most popular Democrat in the state with him every--literally every minute." He was referring to Casey.

The ironic part is that If Obama is to pull off the upset today, it will be by recreating Rendell's political map, not that of Casey.

A few weeks ago, G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young explained:

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.

...

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.

Secondly, the national media has marveled that Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, an African-American, is supporting Clinton and Nutter has marveled that anyone would marvel at that. Here's some context.

When I was reporting on Nutter last year, I found his victory in 2007 Democratic primary for mayor to be fascinating. In a city known for its racially polarized politics, Nutter won nearly equal shares of the white and black vote. According to one source, his initial base was among white voters -- only in the final weeks of the campaign did he catch up among black voters.

So, when he argues that black Philadelphians shouldn't vote for Obama just because he's black, Nutter is essentially telling the city to do what it did when it elected him.

The ironic thing here, however, is that Obama is the candidate who promises to take the country beyond its old divisions. In other words, Nutter is using a "post-racial" pitch to argue against the post-racial candidate.

Josh Goodman
Josh Goodman  |  Former Staff Writer
mailbox@governing.com

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