Chatting with the BBC, the Pa primary, and measuring Mitt – a busy week

    It’s been a crazy week, following political events from the hyper-local to the national, and opining everywhere from this humble blog to an international radio audience. On Monday I covered Mitt Romney and boy-senator Marco Rubio in Delaware County and finished the week doing a guest stint with the BBC’s Owen Bennet-Jones, whose photo I snapped across the folding table we shared on Independence Mall (In between, I got to interview Julia Louis-Dreyfus for a future edition of Fresh Air – that was fun). My head is spinning, but here are a few thoughts and observations from the week in politics:

    – Romney: He was every bit the perfectly-styled and relentlessly on-message politician you see on TV. But observing the whole event rather than just the sound bites, you could see him beginning to tack toward the political center now that the general election looms.

    After his usual attacks on Obama and the economy and the threat to our freedoms posed by Obamacare, he noted that “some features in our health care system need to be fixed.” He said insurance companies shouldn’t be able to deny coverage to somebody with pre-existing conditions if they’ve been insured before. That got some polite ripples of applause.

    And he made a point of saying in a brief session with reporters that he favors Congressional action to extend the cap on student interest loan rates, clearly a pitch for the youth vote.

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    His advance staff were pretty awful to deal with, but that’s par for the course.

    – The Pennsylvania Elections: Former Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy, who had a lot of organizational support, lost to Lackawanna County prosecutor Kathleen Kane, whose campaign was mostly funded from her husband’s business.

    It was striking that while both candidates won their home counties overwhelmingly, Lackawanna Democrats turned out in far more robust fashion that the suburbanites who supported Murphy. Murphy’s Bucks County has more than twice as many registered Democrats as Kane’s Lackawanna County, but roughly the same number of Democrats in each showed up to vote Tuesday – big edge for Kane.

    An analysis by Dan Pohlig of The Campaign Group, which did Kane’s media, showed that the turnout in the Philadelphia media market underperformed the rest of the state. A closer look shows that the drop-off was in the suburbs. Philadelphia Democrats turned out in the Attorney General’s race in proportion to their registration. All four suburban counties fell short.

    And in Philadelphia legislative races, it was proven again that incumbency and organizational support is very hard to beat. Spirited challenges to incumbents everywhere fell short, including in the West Philadelphia race where pro-voucher forces put tens of thousands into trying to knock off State Rep. James Roebuck.

    There was one exception to the rule. 27-year incumbent Babette Josephs acknowledged Friday she was beaten by attorney Brian Sims, who managed an extraordinary fundraising effort, much it from national gay rights networks aimed at making Sims Pennsylvania’s first openly-gay lawmaker. There’s no Republican on the ballot, so he’s on his way to Harrisburg.

    And while organization will get you were you want to go in an obscure Philadelphia election, the Republican U.S. Senate primary showed that money and TV advertising will trump organization statewide, if you can get it. In that contest, Armstrong County conservative Tom Smith committed at least $5 million of his own sweet cash (final figures won’t be reported for weeks) and won the GOP nomination handily. It will be a much tougher road against incumbent Democrat Bob Casey. That race isn’t on national analysts’ lists of races to watch. It will be interesting to see what Smith does to try and change that.

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