(also posted @ Star City Harbinger.com)
State College, PA - No guns, no religion, and no xenophobia... the weapon of choice was a football, the only ideology was the House of JoePa, nobody was a stranger, and all were welcome. The only bitterness might have been day-old beer on Sunday morning.
Using the pretense of doing a story for SCH about the looming presidential primary in Pennsylvania, I once again convinced my wife that I had to make my annual trek to State College, Pennsylvania for the Spring inter-squad football game at my alma mater, Penn State University. The Blue & White game is one of the most sacred of PSU pilgrimages, it is mandatory for the faithful of Nittany Lion Nation. Along the way, I was committed to sample, measure, collect, count, record and tabulate observable evidence of the political leanings of Pennsylvanians prior to the much anticipated Democratic Primary on April 22. Here are a few of my observations and notes from road, you can draw your own conclusions.
April 18, 2008
As I left I81, to journey along the back roads of central Pennsylvania, I was presented with my first data collection opportunity - yard signs. What a great physical marker for the political sentiment of individual voters. I think it is interesting evidence of a committed voter. So from Greencastle to State College, I counted campaign yard signs along the road. The route took me through a good random sample of small towns. Greencastle, Mercersburg, McConnellsburg, Burnt Cabins, Shade Gap, Orbisonia, Mt. Union, Huntingdon and finally State College. 102 miles in total. Sign count: Obama 13, Clinton 4, McCain 0 and Ron Paul 7.
Possible conclusions: 1.) Obama is swaying small town Democrats or he has the money and organization to get the most signs placed. 2.) John McCain has no visible presence in the political landscape of central PA. 3.) Watch out for Ron Paul fans, they don't appear to care for McCain, Obama or Clinton. Which way will they break in November?
The House That Joe Built - Politics and Football
April 19, 2008
On a beautiful Spring day in "Happy Valley", over 73,000 Penn State fans had gathered for this Rite of Spring at Beaver Stadium. Before the game, the competing political camps staked out strategic tailgate locations. Most visible was the Obama camp, close by the stadium. Joe Paterno's son Jay, Nittany Lion QB coach, was instrumental in drawing a crowd with numerous PSU alums, now NFL players.
House of JoePa - Beaver Stadium
Blue & White game 2008
Beer, Bar-B-Q & Barack (and Hillary, too)
Tailgating started early Saturday morning. The jovial crowd of students, alumni and loyal fans enjoyed the sunshine, a variety of beverages and good food. It was clear that hard-nosed national and PA politics took a back seat to enjoying a beautiful spring day watching hard-nosed football. Casual conversation about the upcoming primary was in the background chatter at most tailgates. First hand discussions with several tailgaters indicated a potential close race, at least within this largest of "beer drinking" demographics, which was supported by recent polling data.
Since this crowd of 73,000+ was mostly students, college graduates, and Penn State faculty and staffers ... it was a strong fit with the Obama base of support. Not to be totally side-lined, there were numerous vocal supporters at Hillary and McCain tailgates, as well. One Clinton supporter, Liz Larsen, Penn State staff member and 1979 graduate, said that she had been favoring Hillary, but she was being heavily influenced by her teen-aged daughter, who is a strong Obama supporter. Larsen felt that Clinton represented the best and brightest of her generation of women, who all wanted to see the iconic glass-ceiling of the Presidency, shattered once and for all. However, as a mother, she is encouraged by the groundswell of support that she is seeing in her daughter’s generation for the Obama campaign. She summed up her dilemma by saying she will likely be "undecided" until she enters the voting booth on Tuesday.
Again, Obama yard signs were more prominent than Hillary signs.
Win - Place - Show Results
April 20, 2008
Hillary Clinton completed the presidential campaign Penn State campus trifecta, when she drew a crowd of 1500 on Sunday, April 20th. She was preceded by Bill Clinton who drew an estimated crowd of 6100 on March 27th. Barack Obama drew a record Penn State presidential campaign crowd of approximately 20,000 on March 30th. Clinton campaign staff claimed weather and tired tailgaters were the cause of the low turnout Sunday night.
The Long Ride Home - One Small Town, One Data Point
April 20, 2008
On rainy Sunday afternoon, I made the long drive back to the Shenandoah Valley. I came across a hand-painted sign at the base of the town water tower, in Orbisonia. It seemed to sum up what is in the back of most people's minds, as we face-down a historic decision in November. No matter your political preference, we as a Nation, are not forgetting those of us who have sacrificed the most in the last seven years.
Tuesday, April 22, will take us one step closer to a critical turning point in our way forward as a nation.