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Matthews: Getting into Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania holds its presidential primary on April 22.  That’s six weeks from now.   That’s a long time to talk about something on Hardball.  I want

Pennsylvania holds its presidential primary on April 22.  That’s six weeks from now.   That’s a long time to talk about something on Hardball.  I want to get beyond the polls and the short-hand of James Carville’s line that “Pennsylvania is Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and Alabama in between.”

One thing I’ve started to do is get an e-mail relationship going with the local Democratic leaders around the state. I sent out this note to the all the county chairs.  “How’s this presidential race look to you?  I know it’s a long way ‘til April 22 but I’m checking around with the party people, especially with the “Hardball” watchers.”

Here’s what I received in return.  I think it really adds to what we know about the contest right now.

 **********************************************************************“At this point Hillary Clinton would appear to be ahead. The race will be decided in the southeast suburbs. Philadelphia and Allegheny (includes Pittsburgh) along with the four southeast counties account for 65 % of the Democratic primary turnout statewide.”“Conventional wisdom is that this is a state where Democratic primaries have been won by women but not by African-American candidates.  But there has never been a well-financed high profile African-American candidate in a statewide Democratic primary.”“Pennsylvania will be pivotal in November.   If the Democratic primary becomes negative and divisive, it may become very difficult to carry in November.   We can only hope that the candidates will keep it above board.”“The Obama campaign is opening a county office this weekend and the Clinton campaign may send a major player soon.  I’ve spent since January watching you guys on msnbc. Now I get to watch as you cover Pennsylvania.”“The overwhelming feeling among activists, our national convention delegates, and the rank and file in the neighborhoods as we circulated nominating petitions, is strong support for both candidates, even if they have a personal preference.  Ideally, they’ll both be on the ticket, in either order. The biggest fear is that they’ll dirty each other up and make it easier for the Republican.  But there is an extraordinary excitement and commitment right now to be unified after the convention.”   “Just incredible!   On Wednesday, I received over forty phone calls and close to that again today from people wanting to get involved.  On Thursday, the Monroe County Voter Registration Office had 200 people come in to change their registration.”“The presidential race promises to be one of the most, if not the most, exciting ever.  We are working hard to put a Democrat in the White House. “Our issues are as follows:   1. Universal health care   2. The Iraq war – no more Colonialism!   3. We need to strengthen our Social Security   4. Improve Medicare and Medicaid   5. Many of our elderly are living on so little income.

 “We have two excellent people running for President.  Either would make a great President.”“Remember to vote.”“As you would imagine there is a lot of excitement among Democrats.  I believe the Lehigh Valley will be a microcosm of the rest of the state.   We have a great mix of urban, suburban, rural, union, small business, major industry, young and old.” “The next few weeks will be like nothing I have ever seen. Should be fun.”  “Our registrations are way up.  Lines are forming for Republicans and independents to change their registration to be able to vote in the April 22nd Democratic primary and the county party is hustling to get locations for rallies, policy speeches and dinners.”“Although there is a 1.5 to 1 Republican edge in total registrations, the mood of the electorate has changed and new Democratic registrations far exceed Republican registrations, with over 1,000 newly-registered Democrats already this year.”“Both campaigns are in the process of opening offices here at the moment.  I think we’ll be the 6-week version of Iowa and New Hampshire!” “We’re happy our “Late Primary” will actually mean something.” “This election is becoming a double-edged sword. The local Democratic Party is attracting new people and many of them are Republican converts. My biggest complaint about politics stems from the fact that too many people are content to watch from the sidelines. To see so many new faces and so much excitement, I cannot help but be pleased. Conversely, the longer this primary process drags on, the tougher it will be to heal the wounds heading into the fall. It is my opinion that the DNC is missing the big picture with respect to the super delegates. Instead of being proactive and addressing it now, they are hoping the problem resolves itself.” **********************************************************************

 These are on-the-ground perspectives on the Democratic race for president in Pennsylvania.  They tell me that Hillary Clinton is clearly ahead but that voters are hugely excited to hear from both candidates.  This could be the most pivotal battle in Pennsylvania since Gettysburg!