PA-08: Kicking off the stretch run
by PsiFighter37, Sat Sep 02, 2006 at 03:07:10 PM EDT
A couple days ago, I profiled the Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District, Patrick Murphy. At the ripe young age of 32 years old, he has all the makings of a future rock star of the Democratic Party - but one with progressive ideals and substance. Although the weather has been absolutely crappy today in the Philadelphia area - it's only recently stopped pouring - I made the trek up to the official grand opening of the new office headquarters in Levittown, up in Bucks County. This is where ground zero for any statewide battle in Pennsylvania is won - the suburbs in Southeast Philadelphia. In recent years, these areas (also encompassed by the 6th and 7th Districts, where Lois Murphy and retired admiral Joe Sestak are running, respectively) have been trending towards Democrats. Both Al Gore and John Kerry won the suburbs, and they have been areas of exceptional strength for both Governor Ed Rendell and Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey in their previous statewide runs. In the battle for the House of Representatives, PA-08 is going to be a district we need to win - and Patrick Murphy is the man for the job.
I was picked up from the small Levittown train station by a pair of 'super volunteers' with the Murphy campaign, both ironically named Ben. One of the greatest strengths of Patrick's campaign - just as with Ned Lamont - is the amount of young people working for the campaign. Several of my colleagues, past and present, with the Penn College Democrats, as well as other students (both undergraduate and graduate) who attend Penn, are taking the semester off or having a reduced courseload to work for Patrick. I would venture to say that just about every staffer at the office was around or below the age of 25. It's true that young people don't have the best voting record, but the enthusiasm the right kind of candidate, like Patrick, creates is incredible and genuine.
After arriving, I signed up to volunteer on the weekends. There appear to be plans to hit the streets every weekend from now up until Election Day. In addition, there is plenty of other work - phonebanking and data entry, for example - to be done. The new volunteer coordinator has only been there for about 2 weeks or so (the last one had to return to school), but she said that there was plenty of enthusiasm and that new volunteers were signing up to give their time to the campaign in droves. When I spoke to a staffer on the phone earlier, I was asked if I'd like to be an intern. While I'd love to get some official campaign work on my resume (to date, I have only volunteered for John Kerry, 2004 PA-Sen candidate Joe Hoeffel, NJ Governor Jon Corzine, and Lamont), I had to pass, as 6-class courseload is not conducive to taking 45-minute train rides (one-way) to the suburbs everyday.
As one can see, there were many people who showed up, despite the horrible weather outside. Originally, this had been billed as a barbeque, so there probably would have been more space had the weather cooperated with us. However, with some time to kill, I was able to chat with my fellow College Democrats as well as get acquainted with some of the other folks in the campaign. I caught up with one of my good friends who had worked for Joe Lieberman (C4L-CT) over the summer. I told her it'd be difficult to forgive her for that lack of good judgment (jokingly, of course! I'm not a mean guy), but she agreed that Lieberman was now being a 'jerk'. I also found out that the PA-Sen race should not taken for granted by the grassroots. Bob Casey has no ground game at all. Despite their massive fundraising efforts, most of their money is going into direct-mail messaging and media. When I went canvassing for Lamont, there were tons of direct mailings from both campaigns that were sitting in people's mailboxes, and other times, had blown away and were on the sidewalk. Mass-mailing people information in the middle of the summer does not seem like the brightest idea. Numerous sources informed me that the Casey campaign is essentially going to piggyback off of Ed Rendell and his campaign when it comes to the GOTV effort. This is awful - there's absolutely no infrastructure in place to get votes out for Casey. Rick Santorum, on the other hand, is going to have a strong ground game because of his ties to the socially ultraconservative wing of the Republican Party. If it's still a 6-point spread (as recent polls have shown) come Election Day, someone told me, the race is going to be a toss-up. Definitely not good news.
After being occupied with a longer-than-expected radio interview, Patrick finally emerged to address the crowd. He was introduced to the crowd by State Representative Tony Melio. He started out by thanking all of us and was launching into a little speech before being interrupted by a local activist who went on a rant against national and local Republicans. It was quite disruptive, but we heard him out, and at least he had the good courtesy to tell us to elect Patrick. Afterwards, Patrick thanked his family members for coming out, as well as local Democratic candidates running for office. In addition, he thanked those of his Army buddies who had shown up to volunteer for him. For the most part, the speech was not focused squarely on the issues; instead, Patrick chose to highlight the fact that he would run a positive campaign, something that is sorely missing these days from political campaigns. Given that the internal poll the Murphy campaign released in mid-July showed him only behind by 6 points - but up by 19(!) points once people were informed of their respective biographies - this may be a good tack to take. It seems that all that Patrick needs to do is raise his name ID and hit the airwaves to let people know who he is.
To finish up, the campaign's first ad - it will be relased Tuesday - was shown to us. I recorded it on my digital camera, but the campaign asked that I do not post it. For those of you who would like to see it, it will be up on Patrick's website on Monday. However, I can divulge the general content, and for your typical polished ad, it does a good job of highlighting the captain's career - lawyer, soldier, professor, and now congressional candidate. To say the least, I think Matt Stoller, who has been running an Adwatch at MyDD, will be pleased. It starts off with a clip of John F. Kennedy and states that Patrick is a Democrat, so there's no shame in telling voters that he's a proud member of the Democratic Party. Accountability is included - while Patrick's opponent, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, is not mentioned, a line is included about the need to stop giving Bush a 'blank check' on Iraq - the other main component that Stoller has been emphasizing. Instead, the ad tells us we need to focus on the real war on terrorism - of which Iraq has no part in, no matter how much the GOP tries to combine the two. All in all, I thought it came out very well, and the audience liked it a lot. I'm sure Matt will be writing about it on Monday - a Penn alum who is working for Patrick was well aware of the dissection that is occurring in the blogosphere over candidate advertisements.
While the event was open until 6 PM, the main event - Patrick speaking to all of us and the airing of the ad - finished up a couple hours early. He went on to mingle with the crowd; although I didn't get a chance to speak with him, I figured I'm the last person he needs to chat with - I've already decided to volunteer for him, and I can't vote for him (Penn is located in Rep. Chakah Fattah's district). On the drive back to the train station, the man who was giving me a ride told me he was worried about Bush attacking Iran - and it was the main reason he wanted to get Fitzpatrick out. Although the Republican has been running from his party, labeling himself 'independent' (his lawn signs don't include his party affiliation), I think people are wising up to the fact that the GOP have been rubber stamps the past 6 years. The man told me that if Fitzpatrick were re-elected, he'd go ahead and do whatever the White House wanted him to. Indeed, staying the course hasn't done us much good to date. It's time to change direction - and Patrick Murphy is going to be a big part of it.