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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Conditions in SW Pennsylvania

Posted by Fester

This is my first post here on the Swing State Project. I have been asked to write about the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and how the economy and general sentiment will shape the roll of Pennsylvania as a swing state in November. Culturally this area can be divided into two sections. Urban Pittsburgh and the inner communities of Allegheny County and the rest of the region. The rest of the region is fairly dispersed, still crumbling after the steel industry pulled out, socially conservative and reluctant to embrace tax plans. They are Reagan Democrats and Dean's "guys with Confederate Flag stickers on their trucks." The urban areas of this state are predominately older style ethnic machine Democrats. The city itself is overwhelmingly Democratic and the county has a strong Democratic trend as witnessed by the 60-40 election of Dan Onorato (D) to the position of County Executive.

However the local Democratic Party is not that particulary strong. For instance, the Democrats have been losing seats on the county council for the past two elections, now it is down to an 8-7 margin as the Republicans have been reasonably successful in picking up seats in the northern suburbs. Dan Onorato is working to make the institutional machinery of the county more Democratic but the party is engaged in a minor war with itself between the old school and the new school that wants to change the party on social issues. Mayor Murphy lost two important council elections against members of the new wave of Democrats in the county. Finally the Allegheny County Democrats are slightly suspicious of any of the new activism/ party building activity that has been undertaken by either the Dean or Clark local volunteer supporters.

With this said, Southwestern PA should definatively be in play for the Democrats this year with a slight tilt towards a strong defense of the region. President Bush has successfully managed to piss off the Steelworkers over both the tariffs and legacy cost issues. The senior Steelworker leaderrship is extremely worried about the solvency of the Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation. Any Bush policy proposal towards retirement security, has, from the point of view of the union, been insufficient. The unions and small manufacturers should also be incensed about the dramatic downscaling of the Manufacturing Extension Plan. Bush has not done a good job of selling himself as a good economic policy president, or even as a good disperser of goodies to Southwestern Pennsylvania.

If the Democrats nominate a candidate who has reservations about free trade and relative indifference about gun control, then the Democrats should be able to hold onto Southwestern Pennsylvania and make signifcant gains in Southeastern Ohio and all of West Virginia. The party needs to get its act together and take advantage of the new blood that wants to be used, but the conditions favor the Democrats in this region at this time.

Crossposted at Fester's Place.

Posted at 04:34 PM in Pennsylvania | Technorati