POTTSVILLE, Penna. — I’ve spent the last three days roaming around Pennsylvania -- kicking the tires, talking to voters and trying to stay out of the way of the big rig trucks that speed along the Keystone State’s roads.
I ran the state for Vice President Walter Mondale’s winning primary campaign in 1984, worked on Democrat Bob Casey’s winning gubernatorial campaign in 1986 and have worked on congressional races in the state in every election cycle since. In 2002, just 21 short months ago, I worked on Tim Holden’s “miracle” campaign – practically living in Harrisburg during one of the hardest fought campaigns I have ever been involved in. Holden was the only redistricted Democratic incumbent to defeat a Republican incumbent anywhere in the country in 2002 – and the win came in the wee hours of the morning and by a few thousand votes.
So with some history in the state, I’ve got to tell you it feels different this year. I don’t care what the polls say, on the ground, the race doesn’t seem close at all. John Kerry is on his way to defeating George Bush handily in Pennsylvania, and right now it feels like that Kerry’s lead is growing.
What I am finding is an almost palpable sense of betrayal by many who say they supported President Bush in 2000. Every former Gore voter I talk to has already made up their mind and is supporting Kerry. I haven’t been able to find a single person who voted for Gore in 2000 who is undecided today or voting for Bush this time. No, the undecided voters I have found in the state all say they supported Bush in 2000. This is horrible news for the Bush campaign, after all Gore won this state four years ago.
The problem for Bush grows when you talk to these undecided voters that once rallied to the President’s side. They talk about economic betrayal, about thousands of jobs lost, about promises that the Bush tax cuts (regardless of who got them) would get the economy moving again. You’d be hard pressed to convince many here that the Bush economic policies have worked.
In a state that takes pride in its veterans, these same voters who should be safely in the president’s column by now tend to find the attacks on John Kerry’s military service unseemly. I don’t believe the president is benefiting from these attacks.
Some will dismiss my report from the front in Pennsylvania as the partisan ranting of a lifelong Democratic consultant. So be it. All I can do is call it like I see it, and to me the Bush campaign is wasting its time and money in Pennsylvania -- they are not going to be able to turn this blue state red. But there may be a greater problem or warning sign for the Republicans if the rest of the nation splits along the same lines as voters in the Keystone State.
Nationwide if voters who supported Al Gore for President in 2000 are voting for John Kerry in 2004, it should not be lost on the Bush campaign that Al Gore won the popular vote four years ago.
Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, is an MSNBC contributor and a political analyst for "Hardball with Chris Matthews." He's contributes to Hardball's weblog, and is author of "The Revolution Will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything."