Politically Savvy Friends

Saturday, June 30, 2007

When Presidents-to-Be Come to Town

Dear Politically Savvy Friend,

This week I met former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he campaigned in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (for out-of-towners, that’s a funky old-fashioned market place, not what the name suggests), and I must admit I was impressed with the guy.

Forget his political positions for the moment. In person, Giuliani comes across as a regular guy, not one of those stiff politicians who look over your shoulder to see whom else they should ignore. Maybe it was the venue – for an Italian American like Rudy, visiting Jimmy and Nino Sunseri’s Italian market to sample the cheese, the pasta, and the pizza must have been a bit like heaven.

Giuliani was relaxed, shaking hands with the locals, joking with kids about being off school, kissing a 10-month old baby who had the most gorgeous smile, sharing family history with another Giuliani (who spells her maiden name Guiliani), and walking the Strip to feel the ambience of Pittsburgh’s old-country market district.

Giuliani was in Pittsburgh to raise money at two separate fund raising events, but kudos to the Giuliani campaign for scheduling this hour-long effort to meet real Pittsburgh folks and make himself available to the local media for Q&A. Contrast that to Senator Barack Obama’s quick visit to Pittsburgh a week earlier, where the goal was solely to raise money, not to meet ordinary schleps or talk to the press. But thanks to some very smart Obama supporters here in Pittsburgh – kudos to them – Barack did stop by a gaggle of reporters for at least 120 seconds. Still, it was not particularly satisfying when, after opening comments, he would not take any questions.

The irony is that, on the central issue of our time – the war in Iraq – Obama’s message will resonate with more Americans than Giuliani’s. Obama has opposed the war from the beginning, while Giuliani is absolutely certain that Iraq is where we need to confront the terrorists. But as we learned in 2000 and 2004 in the race for the White House, personality will trump issues almost all the time. When candidates come to Pittsburgh and fail to mix it up with average folks, they miss a tremendous opportunity to show us what they’re like.

You can watch what we capture of the presidential candidates by looking through the “Recent News Stories” link on this page.


dayvoe said...

Talkingpoints memo has something on Rudy and Iraq:


Looks like Rudy is AVOIDING talking about Iraq - while campaigning on being tough on terror.

Matt H said...

Good points about Rudt taking questions and meeting the common folks.

Barack came into town to take money and get out.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Did you meet Ron Paul when he returned HOME?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Ron Paul is going to be in Pittsburgh at 7 pm on August 3, 2007, at North Point Sheraton (279/79) merger area in Cranberry. We'll party after too.

Hope to see you there Mr. D.

Freshen the blog when you get a chance too.