Monday, January 7, 2008

POLITICAL REALITIES: PENNSYLVANIA'S 12TH CD -- If you'd like to go the archive, you'll hear Eric Dondero and Steve Maloney (yep, me) interviewing New York state congressman Peter King and others about the candidacies of Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romeny, John McCain, and others. I say something nice about Hillary Clinton, which may be an historic first.

Later this week I'll write one of my last pieces on the Russell-Murtha race. After analyzing the race carefully, I believe -- sadly -- that the election will not be winnable by Bill Russell; however, any Republican candidate that can chalk up (nearly) 100,000 votes would be in a good position to win the seat when Murtha retires or passes away. (Note: Based on past experience, it appears that Murtha will get approximately 145,000 votes in November, give or take a few thousand.)

Diana Irey has been the strongest challenger Murtha has faced, and she got nearly 79,000 votes (39% of the total) -- and they came in an off-year election. In off years, many people -- tens of thousands -- in the 12th CD don't bother to vote. A viable candidate needs to get a lot of them registered and then to the polling places.

There are ways, over time (perhaps four years), for a strong Republican candidate to win in the 12th. If a candidate shakes 100,000 hands and builds an extremely strong, volunteer-based organization, he (or she) can ESTABLISH A FOUNDATION FOR WINNING.

Right now, I don't see that happening. That means a majority of voters in the 12th will engage in their "Pavlov's Dog Syndrome," salivating every time they see Murtha's name on the ballot.

In the 12th, a truly strong candidate must disabuse voters of the notion that "John Murtha brings home the bacon." In fact, the median household income (MHI) in the 12th is an anemic $30,600 annually. That's one of the lowest totals in the state, about the same MHI as in inner-city Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. So, where's the bacon?

The MHI in the 12th is below the statewide average in either Mississippi and Alabama. The 12th CD is a depressed area. No major companies are interested in establishing facilities in the district. A major reason is that they don't want to deal with a corrupt bully like Murtha.

If a candidate explains such "inconvenient truths" to voters, it may not do a great deal of good. Old illusions, especially ones about Murtha, die hard. If the electorate wants to reward Murtha for bringing his district almost to the economic levels of Alabama and Mississippi, then there's little in the short-term that can be done.

I was getting ready to spend much of my next year working on the Russell-Murtha race. However, I've come to the view that, if 12th District voters want Murtha, then let them have him.

I'd rather spend the time working with candidates, such as Melissa Hart in PA's 4th District, who have a decent chance of winning. I believe she's willing to shake her "100,000 hands," and to build a huge volunteer base. She's committed to doing whatever it takes to win back her seat in Congress.

I wish William Russell all the best in his campaign against Murtha. If he goes door-to-door each day between now and next November, then he has a chance of doing well -- although not of winning outright. I urge voters in the 12th to support him. I also urge him to begin listening to people like yours truly, who have good ideas about how he can sharply increase Republican votes in his district.

I'm going to write more tonight and tomorrow about the New Hampshire primary. My father was born in Berlin (stress first syllable), New Hampshire, and I visited the state frequently when I lived in New England (VT & CT). The registration patterns in NH are unlike those in any other state -- with a tremendous number of "Independents."

Regarding Hillary Clinton, whom I regard as the best (by far) of the Democratic candidates. My friend Cindy at wrote me that Hillary is at her best when she's apparently "down" and behind.

My response to Cindy: Monday, January 7, 2008: Hillary's another person who should hire you and me -- we wouldn't accept, but she needs some political realists around her. Also, she has a few conservative instincts and she should start letting them blossom. Obama is terrible on the WOT and other key issues, and Hillary should start pointing that out -- not be always trying to win the far Leftists whom she needs to avoid. Twenty percent of the registered Dems in the U.S. want us to lose in Iraq. She needs to wash her hands of those people. She must emphasize that the U.S. wins the WOT or else nothing that patriotic people (Dem. and Repub.) want for themselves and their children will come true. If she goes down, she should go down with guns blazing. Hillary should demonstrate her understanding that America's problems will be solved by the American people -- not by any particular President. Her husband understands that key point, and she should also.


Leo Pusateri said...

Steve, don't count the chickens before the eggs have hatched. While Diana Irey was a relatively formidable opponent, certain circumstances exist today that weren't in play at the time of her candidacy that play well in Russell's favor:

1. Haditha. The truth about Haditha had not yet come to light. There is no longer an argument that the Haditha Marines had *NOT* committed cold blooded murder, as Murtha had so loudly proclaimed, and as he continues to refuse to acknowledge.

One of the Marines that Murtha wrongfully accused of cold blooded murder was in actuality one of PA-12's own constituents. There is a heavy concentration of military personnel, both active and retired, in Murtha's district. The truth about Haditha, especially after having been brought to light not only by Darryl and Justin Sharrat, but also by the highly decorated candidate, Lt. Col. William Russell. There is no military person who, in good conscience, can vote for an ex-Marine who sold one of their own down the river.

2. William Russell is retired military.

While Diana Irey was bright, knowledgeable, and in every way competent, Lt. Colonel Russell will add yet another dimension of credibility to the mix that will appeal to PA-12's military voters. Not only is Russell retired military, his record is beyond reproach, and Russell exemplifies all that is honorable in a veteran.

3. Murtha continues to be corrupt.
His earmarks and other "boss politician" antics, while certainly bringing pork in the area to buy votes, at the same time have gotten additional scrutiny both nationally and locally that have not been brought to bear until relatively recently.

So, sir, I am asking you not to lose sight of the notion that now, more than ever, the Murtha Machine is a corrupt, vulnerable machine that could well be on life support at this juncture, and that Lt. Colonel William Russell, via his weapon of honor and righteousness, will be the one to put this monster to rest, once and for all.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Hi Leo. I've been sick all week, but I'll answer your comments (thoughtful and good) later tonight or tomorrow a.m. Bill Russell is a longshot, and I don't think he wants to do the kind of "retail politics" (basically, door-to-door) that is necessary to make real inroads into what is now a huge Murtha lead. Diana didn't do everything right, but she did a lot of good things. I have come to believe (reluctantly) that John Murtha will leave the seat when the Good Lord Calls Him Home.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Leo: I believe Murtha is nothing short of evil.

One big problem with the 12th District of PA is that relatively few people vote -- and those that do tend to be ill-informed about key issues, including Haditha and the local economy. The only kind of campaign that will work is one that's extremely aggressive in defining the issues and that engages relentlessly in "retail politics." Basically, that means a candidate should knock on 50,000 doors and shake 100,000 hands. That also means mobilizing literally thousands of supporters to go door-to-door. I don't see Bill doing any of these things. I don't even mean that as a criticism. It's a question of personality and comfort-level with the "retail" approach. I believe a "traditional" campaign, one that does a little of this and a little of that, has no chance of succeeding. The 12th is a district where the vast majority of people who live there were born there. To them, Bill is an "outsider" -- while Murtha is "good old Jack, the war hero (Vietnam) who brings home the bacon." To the people of the 12th, "Colonel" Murtha is also retired military.

Thirty-plus years of largely uncontested elections has left Murtha with that indelible image. It is a very sad situation -- and one that would take an extremely dynamic (Obama-like?) campaign to overcome. "Sad" is the right word.