Philadelphia Metropolis


The Phillies Factor

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It is the first week of October, the election is just one month away, and people are getting excited about the big races.Not the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races. Those are distant thunder

I am talking about the Phillies and the Eagles. In this sports-mad region, the two teams are sucking up a lot of attention and could continue to do so well into the election season.

Thumbnail image for Phillies logo.jpgIn fact, if the Phillies last until the World Series and the series goes seven games, it won't end until November 4 - two days after the general election.

This is bad news for the statewide Democratic candidates: Dan Onorato, the Pittburgher who is running for governor, and Delaware County's own Joe Sestak, the U.S. Senate candidate.


These two men must do well in the Philadelphia region in order to win statewide. If they do not, they are toast. The winners will be Tom Corbett, the Republican candidate for governor, and Pat Toomey, the GOP Senate candidate, who already lead in the polls.

The Philadelphia media market - which consists of Philly, the four suburban counties, plus the Reading-Easton-Allentown area - generally votes Democratic and usually accounts for 40 percent of all votes cast in the state..

But what happens if, on Election Day, nobody shows up to vote? Don't take that statement too literally.  People will vote. The question is: in what numbers?

Take Philadelphia, please.  Onorato will probably win 75-80 percent of the vote in the city, but 75 to 80 percent of what? Turnout has varied widely in gubernatorial elections in recent years - from a low of 291,000 votes cast in 1998, (when Gov. Tom Ridge faced Pittsburgh's Ivan Itkin) to a high of 485,000 votes cast in 1986 in the super-heated race between the elder Bob Casey and Bill Scranton 3d

As a Democrat, if you win 80 percent of 291,000 votes you leave the city with a margin of 173,000 votes.  Win 80 percent of 485,000 votes and your margin is 388,000 votes. 

You can see why more is better in Philadelphia when it comes to turnout.

When Ed Rendell was on the top of the ticket, total votes in Philly ranged from 400,000 to 428,000. I don't see that happening this year. It will be lower.

To make matters stickier for the Dems, this officially has been labeled an "anger election," where the voters who are mad as Hell turn out and the rest of us sit at home and watch the Phils.As that noted political commentator William Butler Yeats put it: "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity."

Voters are pissed because President Obama and the Democrats spent billions for an economic stimulus and jobs program to avert a depression and because they passed a health care bill that represents an unprecedented intrusion of government into our lives, unless you count Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. 

No matter.They must be punished and punished they will be.

Oddly, there isn't a lot of anger evident in the campaigns.  Toomey is an ultra-conservative with a good disposition; Corbett is a pleasant country-club Republican.

They have no objection to being lifted by the tide of anger, but aren't playing to it. They are too busy trying to appeal to independent voters to attend Tea Party rallies.

Actually, it may be wrong to emphasize the anger angle too much.  Most voters aren't steamed. They are zoned out.  In the most recent Franklin and Marshall poll, 45 percent of voters said they didn't know enough about Onorato or Corbett to form an opinion about either man.

Michael Vick? Now, that's a different matter. Talk about passionate intensity.

So, the challenge facing statewides isn't selling people on their candidacies, it is getting them to wake up to the fact there is an election.

It is worse this year, but it isn't new.  The conventional wisdom once was that no one paid attention to politics until after Labor Day. Then, it sort of creeped forward. Now, we are headed to mid-October.  Is it conceivable this year that voters will begin to focus the day after the election?

Let me add that if the Democrats do lose this election we should not blame the Phillies.  We should blame Andy Reid, like we always do.

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