Friday, November 30, 2012

Some random thoughts about the year gone by

We know its only the last day of November and most writers wait until the end of December to reminisce about the year gone by, but here's some random highlights.

The GOP primaries

Buzz and I started our primary coverage up North in New Hampshire is early January. It was the first time Buzz and I took the VW Micro-bus into the Granite state for the Presidential Primary.  The nation's first primary was originally held on the second Tuesday in March, but has slowly crept forward in order to be the nation's first primary.  In 2012, it was held on January 10th.

Mitt Romney ended up winning New Hampshire this year, just a week after Rick Santorum's strong showing (and eventual win in Iowa.)  It was Jon Huntsman's first and last stand, and we got to meet former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer in a cigar shop and see fringe comic candidate Vermon Supreme get tackled by security outside a Santorum event.

New Hampshire is a great state for the first primary, because it is so small and most of the events are within a 20 mile radius of Manchester.  It is a political junkie's dream, because most major candidates are still on the ballot, the events are usually small enough that you can actually personally meet the candidates, and downtown Manchester is a virtual who's who of national news figures.  CBS's Bob Schieffer, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and Lawrence O'Donnell, and NBC's David Gregory were among the many we bumped into in Manchester.

Santorum and Newt Gingrich were nightmares for Romney.  They both won primaries or caucuses while causing Romney to try to out conservative them.  Rick Perry provided some very comical moments, including his famous "ooops" moment at one of the hundreds of GOP debates.

2016 promises to be even more eventful, because not only will the GOP be fighting it out for the nomination, but there will be a contested Democratic primary.  Don't worry, Buzz and I will be there.  For a political junkie, once you've been to New Hampshire for primary season, you gotta go back.

PA's voter suppression law

In the early Spring of 2012, Pennsylvania's Republican controlled legislature decided to join a number other GOP legislatures across the country and attack the phantom problem of in person voter fraud.  They passed, and Governor Tom Corbett signed a voter photo ID law.

Despite it's lofty purpose of combating in person voter fraud, the true purpose behind this law was expressed by PA House Majority leader Mike Turzai in June, when he told a GOP State Committee gathering that the PA Voter ID law would guarantee a Romney victory in PA by stopping Democratic leaning voters from voting.

The challenges to the law were filed shortly after its passage, and Judge Robert Simpson got it right on the second try.  He stopped the law from going into effect for November, 2012.  A hearing on the future implementation has been scheduled for December.

What we found most telling was despite the fact that study after comprehensive study failed to find any in person voter fraud across the nation, GOPers insisted that in person voter fraud was rampant, especially in heavily Democratic areas like Philadelphia County.  It was also interesting that one third of the members of the PA Voter Hall of Fame (persons who voted in 50 consecutive general elections) didn't have the proper photo ID to vote, and would have been turned away from the polls on election day.

Democratic Sweep in PA

Despite having lost a US Senate seat in 2010, the governorship, and losing ground in both Houses of the PA legislature, Democrats rebounded in 2012, by winning all statewide contests.  Barack Obama, US Senator Bob Casey, and all three state row offices (including the first ever win for State Attorney General) all went handily to the Democrats.  The Democrats even won a majority of votes in the United States Congress races.  Only partisan gerrymandering allowed them to win 13 out of 18n seats in Congress.

Pennsylvania is no longer a swing state in national elections, unless the GOP reinvents itself down the road.  We are still in the words of James Carville, "Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, with Alabama in the middle."  The problem for the GOP statewide is that the margins in Democratic areas, particularly Philadelphia County and its suburbs are becoming almost insurmountable.  When the Dems come out of Philly alone with a 500,000 vote advantage, its almost game, set, and match.

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