In Pa., Endorsements May Not Sway Voters

This story was written by Colin Kavanaugh, Daily Pennsylvanian
As the Pennsylvania primary heats up, it may be a former Quaker and Clinton supporter who holds the key to victory for Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

At a number of Pennsylvania rallies, Gov. Ed Rendell - a 1965 Penn alumnus - has used his energy and organization to turn out support for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, and is a critical component of any potential Clinton victory.

But, Rendell's traditional base of support looks poised to vote for Obama in this month's primary.

When Rendell won the governorship in 2002, he did so by registering and winning enormous margins in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh metro areas, despite losing in 57 of the state's 67 counties.

St. Joseph's history professor and political analyst Randall Miller said Rendell voters and Obama voters are one in the same.

"Rendell drew on an obvious fact: 40 percent of Pennsylvania voters live in Philadelphia and its suburbs," Miller said, and Obama has focused on registering a record number of voters in this region.

Over the past few weeks, nearly 80,000 voters have joined the Democratic Party, where the "guess is Obama will get the lion's share" of support from new voters, said Miller.

Additionally, Philadelphia and its suburbs retain an advantage for Obama, with a 40 percent black population, a large student population and a large, professionally educated population - demographics that have heavily favored Obama in other states.

This theory has left many to wonder if Obama could create a surprise win in Pennsylvania by taking a page out of Rendell's political playbook. Clinton holds a 5.4 percent lead over Obama in the state, according to Real Clear Politics polling averages.

But there are also many reasons why these comparisons do not translate between the two politicians.

"One of the major differences is that Rendell had been a part of the Pennsylvania establishment for a long time," said Debbie Mesloh, a spokeswoman for the Obama campaign.

Rendell was already widely known, and popular, in Philadelphia and its suburbs when he ran for governor. Obama, on the other hand, is also a new face to many Pennsylvanians.

Rendell "took his basic message of success in Philadelphia [as mayor] and went around the state" touting his record, said Miller.

To combat being a relative newcomer in the state, Obama is heavily focusing on advertising.

According to the Obama campaign, more than $2 million is being spent on advertising in Pennsylvania, and reports suggest that he will outspend Clinton by a 2-to-1 margin.

Some political analysts speculate that Obama's Philadelphia advantage will be reduced by popular Mayor Michael Nutter's endorsement of Clinton.

However, Obama has also picked up a seemingly unexpected endorsement in U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who is "very important with certain constituencies" that have traditionally been friendly toward Clinton, Mesloh said.

Those voters include conservative and rural Democrats, who largely supported Casey over Rendell in the 2002 gubernatorial primary.

"The paradox is that Clinton voters are really Casey people," Miller said. This "makes it much more complicated" to evaluate the race.
© 2008 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE