Politically Savvy Friends

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Feb. 26, 2009: A New Era Begins

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Yes, I'm back - and to my regular politically savvy friends, I apologize for the absence. I love writing this occasional missive, but I admit that after the unbelievably hectic schedule I had during the 2008 election year it was a bit liberating to take a break from my PSFs. But now a new era has begun with a new president, so perhaps it's timely to share some thoughts and insights with you. On some levels, this country was left in pretty sad shape by the prior administration, but some are not convinced the new guys in town have the right prescription. So that will provide great fodder for the months ahead.

As always, this is a two-way street. As a politically savvy friend, your comments and special inside tips on the national, state, or regional political scene are valuable to me, so I encourage you to keep in touch. Finally, I don't want to be spam for anyone, so if you have no interest in how politics affects your life just use that delete key down below. In the meantime, read on, enjoy, and let me hear from you.


Happy Washington's Birthday! There is no such thing as Presidents Day. I mean really - it's a hoax. George Washington was born on February 22, 1732 - 277 years ago this coming Sunday - and as the commander-in-chief who guided us to victory in the Revolution and then served eight years as the nation's first president, he deserves a special day of recognition. In 1968, Congress (always keen to meddle with things) moved the federal holiday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Then President Richard Nixon (maybe thinking he could be included in the mix) started calling this day "Presidents Day," the silliest notion of all. The dumb calendar-makers and media followed suit. But, officially and legally, the holiday is still "Washington's Birthday." You wouldn't know that from all the marketing hoopla, mistaken calendars, and media ignorance of this fact. But I know my PSFers are smart folks, so correct the unknowing who insist that today is Presidents Day!


Four Weeks Later, Does Anyone Remember George Bush:

We've had a new president for just four weeks, and already the memory of George Bush has faded fast. To his credit, President Bush has kept his mouth shut and his face hidden, giving the new president the chance to establish himself without immediate criticism from his predecessor. That will surely come in the future, as Bush joins the ranks of Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter as former presidents who always have something to say about anything. Of recent presidents, the only one I remember who said little or nothing in retirement was Ronald Reagan and that was because he suffered Alzheimer's disease. At some point, George Bush, like Richard Nixon sought to do, will try to restore his reputation. It's hard to be the most unpopular president to leave office in modern history, but now Bush is smart to put some quiet time in before attempting the image rehabilitation.

A couple PSFers took me to task last fall for wondering out loud exactly how history would judge George Bush. Apparently, I asked whether he would ultimately be viewed as one of our better presidents like Harry Truman who left office down in the polls only to be revered later in life, or be lumped in with the likes of Millard Filmore and Chester A. Arthur. Turns out President Arthur has some local fans who did not welcome the comparison. For the moment, I leave it to you and smart historians to judge the presidency of "W" - but to refresh your memory of the last 43 presidents - you might enjoy this video listing of all of them: http://www.flixxy.com/presidents-morphing.htm Feel free to email me your list of the "worst" presidents in American history. Might be fun to do on this misnamed Presidents Day!

The Inauguration of Barack Obama:

I attended the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981 and Bill Clinton in 1993, and for all the pomp and glitz of those events, nothing compares to the inauguration of Barack Obama a few weeks ago. Photojournalist Dave Colabine (a KDKA-TV photographer) and I arrived in DC about midday on January 19th, where we set to work catching up to the many Pittsburgh people who were in Washington for the festivities so we could send stories back home for the evening news. Washington was certainly festive, as it always is when a new president comes to town, but the sheer number of celebrants made this extraordinary. On Inauguration Day, we got stuck underground for an hour-and-a-half on the Metro, as hundreds of thousands jammed the system. Now, normally, such crowds and delays would make people irritable, but not this day. Folks sung songs, clapped, and couldn't have been nicer to each other. In the end, two million Americans jammed the Mall that stretches two miles from the Lincoln Memorial to the Washington Monument to the U.S. Capitol. The Obama campaign clearly knew and welcomed these folks, although the same team lacked an "exit strategy" when it came time to leave - we had to walk miles to find an open Metro stop, taking more than three hours to get back to our satellite truck on Connecticut Avenue.

During the swearing-in ceremony, we were just east of the Washington Monument, about a million people away from the Capitol. The crowd was perhaps more black than white, but not overwhelmingly so. This was not a surprise to me. Washington is a majority black city, and the inauguration of the first African American president is, was, and should be a point of pride to the black community, as was the swearing-in of John F. Kennedy in 1961 to millions of Catholics who saw that religious barrier finally fall. No surprise, my TV reports showed the black crowds, which prompted some cowardly anonymous hater to send me a sick hand-written note, "You fit right in with all those niggers in D.C." Obviously, this racism isn't unique to western PA, but it's just another sad reminder that despite the election of an African American president, this country still has a segment of society that just can't get beyond the color of one's skin. What more can you say.

Standing so far away from the swearing-in itself, I watched the event on the jumbo screens placed all over the Mall. From my vantage point, the crowd was very partisan, booing loudly when President Bush was introduced and cheering for President Clinton. Despite all the controversy that accompanied the Rev. Rick Warren, his invocation prayer was well-received on the Mall, bringing tears to the eyes of many. It was hard not to catch the verbal slip-up of Chief Justice John Roberts. Why the dude didn't have a written copy of the oath of office in front of him is beyond me. This editor of the Harvard Law Review couldn't administer the oath to another editor of the Harvard Law Review? Well, at age 54, the chief justice will have plenty of future times to get it right, although he may always be remembered for this one.

As for President Obama's inaugural address, can anyone tell me what he said? I listened carefully for some memorable line and found none. To some extent, Obama was the victim of that old high expectation game. He is given to great moments of oratory, but his swearing-in was not one of them. But reading the speech later, there is plenty of meat in it, even if on the Mall it sounded awfully pessimistic about the country. One thing that caught my attention on the Mall was the president's renewed effort to reach out to the Muslim world, first by not shying away from his middle name in taking the oath, and then by reciting that America is "a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers." Actually, America is about 76% Christian, 14% non-religious, 1.3% Jewish, 0.5% Muslim, 0.5% Buddhist, 0.4% Hindu, and a smattering of some others. We are still overwhelmingly Christian, but the difference is that we have no state religion, and we welcome (or at least most of us do) the practice of all faiths (or no faith) in this country.

To me, the most important part of the Inauguration itself was the spirit of change, of starting over again, of a new chance to get things right. President Obama's campaign, of course, was predicated on this notion that he, a real outsider to Washington (unlike the Clintons and Bushes), could better mirror the peoples' desires to change the direction of the country. Whether "Change We Can Believe In" is more than just a slogan will depend on the actions of the Obama administration in the weeks ahead. But on Inauguration Day, clearly the desire for change was palpable.

All the stories I filed can be searched at www.kdka.com, but here's a wrap-up montage I did a couple hours after we got back from D.C. http://kdka.com/video/?id=52112@kdka.dayport.com

As Economy Falters, Republicans Say, It's All Yours, Dems:

Having won the White House and increased their majority in both the House and Senate in large measure because President Bush and the Republicans screwed up so badly on the economy, Democrats now have both the power and the responsibility to fix the economic misery felt by millions of Americans. In short, even though they may have inherited the problem, it's theirs now, and the Democratic Party will be judged in 2010 on whether we all feel better, or worse, about the economy.

That analysis helps explain why Republicans, for obvious political reasons, were so united in opposing the president, despite his almost obsequious effort to court them. The clearer it is that the "rescue plan" is the Democrats' plan, the easier it will be to campaign against the Dems next year if things don't get better. By voting unanimously against the stimulus package in the House and almost unanimously in the Senate, the G.O.P. is attempting to wash its hands of any responsibility for the economic mess. It's smart politics, and it just might work. This is not to say that the Republicans had no legitimate policy arguments against such a costly recovery plan. The massive government spending gave opponents lots of targets. But these objections are largely irrelevant to the broader political picture.

Of course, there's a lot in the $787 stimulus package that people will like. It's hard to argue against a $400 per person, $800 per couple (filing jointly), tax cut through a smaller withholding of taxes, even if it only amounts to about $13 per bi-weekly paycheck. And most of those who get Social Security payments will enjoy the one-time $250 check. More meaningful to the economy may be some of the other provisions, like a tax deduction of the sales tax you pay if you buy a new car or truck - or a $1,500 tax credit to offset expenses in making your home energy efficient - or the $2,500 tax credit on college tuition payments - or, if you're among the many temporarily out of work, the increase in unemployment payments and, more importantly, its extension from 26 to 46 weeks (and longer in some hard hit states), along with a 60% government subsidy of your COBRA health insurance payments.

If any of this stuff works, only President Obama and the Democrats can take credit for it, with the exception of three Republican senators, one of whom is up for reelection next year [see below]. And if the economy continues to sour, Republicans can say, we told you so.

Fixing the Wall Street Bailout:

The more we learn about last fall's $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan, the less people like it. The problem may not have been in the concept, and the infusion of funds may have actually worked to stop the stock market decline, but the plan's implementation by President Bush and then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been sharply criticized by many. From all appearances, the Bush administration simply handed out $350 billion to the banks with no rules, no accountability, and no real paper trail of what these banks did with all these tax dollars. There's no defending the award of "bonuses" to bank executives and Wall Street financiers whose organizations were going under, whose stock prices have plummeted, and whose reckless profiteering and greed in these complicated housing finance scams wiped out at least a third of most people's retirement savings in the stock market. While Standard & Poor's, Moody's, and other ratings institutions suspended judgment to give AAA ratings to worthless financial instruments so others could make billions, the Bush administration, the Securities & Exchange Commission, and, yes, both the Republican-controlled and the Democratic-controlled Congress over the last five years turned a blind eye to appropriate regulation.

The bottom line to all this scummy behavior is that taxpayers do not want to spend one more penny on banks and their Wall Street friends. But the reality for President Obama and now-Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is that they must do just that. The remaining $350 billion needs to be spent, and many think even that won't be enough to prop up the ailing financial markets. Some economists think some banks are already insolvent or heading towards insolvency. I don't know. What I do know is that the rules should be absolutely clear and transparent to the public about how this money is to be used and what conditions are attached if a bank accepts public dollars. Banning bonuses above $500,000 seems reasonable, but corporate bonuses are not really the issue, any more than strictly limiting the use of corporate jets (although that should be done, too). Restoring confidence in our financial institutions is critical, along with a renewed effort to shore up home mortgages and to ease credit for companies and individuals, and then opening up the institution's books for regulators and the public to examine. If a bank accepts corporate welfare, there can be no more hiding how the bank's dollars are spent.

As this week begins, we don't know exactly how the Obama administration will proceed in this arena. The president seems correctly focused on the housing foreclosure problem, but that alone won't solve the banking crisis. And until banks are solvent, it is unlikely that the stock market can really begin to recover.

So What's Obama's Four-Week Report Card?

It's pretty early in the game to assess how President Obama is doing, but that doesn't stop pollsters from trying. By most accounts, Obama is still soaring. His job rating in February is 62% approval (CBS), 66% (Gallup), 69% (Ipsos/McClatchy), and 76% (CNN). An interesting Pew Research Center Poll asked respondents for one word to describe Obama: 33% picked "intelligent/intellectual" followed by "change" (17%), "honest" (16%), and "confident" (15%). The first negative word was "inexperienced" (15%) followed by "socialist" (13%).

My own take on this is that the president is doing remarkably well for someone who has had a few slip-ups in his Cabinet appointments. Most people don't seem to care about who is secretary of commerce or health & human services, as much as they want a smart, honest leader who will confront the economic challenges. I think it's also important for Obama to be perceived to represent the average working family beyond the DC Beltway and not the political in-crowd in Washington or the big financial interests on Wall Street. His town meetings in Indiana, Florida, and Virginia helped to reassure people that he understands the pain most of us are feeling to which the Bush administration could never relate. The president needs to continue these trips to "middle America" both to hear the Mrs. Hughes out there and to demonstrate that he will not become captive to Washington's governing class.


Harrisburg Struggles to Balance the Budget:

Don't tell Gov. Ed Rendell that he's a lame duck. His putative successor is already out there somewhere stirring the political waters, but it's more than fifteen months until PA Democrats and Republicans nominate the next gubernatorial candidates. That leaves Rendell still in a visible driver's seat, and the guv, along with the Republican-controlled state Senate and the Democratic-controlled state House, must confront the largest budget deficit in decades - a $2.3 billion deficit that could easily double in the next couple years.

In his Feb. 4 budget address to the legislature, the governor took credit for a degree of fiscal conservatism that makes PA not quite the economic basket case of others. Rendell was quick to compare this state's fiscal mess to that of California ($41 billion deficit), New York ($14 billion deficit), New Jersey ($4.0 billion deficit), Ohio ($3.5 billion deficit), and Massachusetts ($3.1 billion deficit). Still, Pennsylvania must balance its books. Unlike many other states, Rendell made it clear that he would not increase the state's flat income tax (3.07%), or increase the state sales tax (6%) or the gasoline tax (32.3 cents/gallon). And he will not halt his effort to (slowly) reduce business taxes in Pennsylvania. So that leaves him with cutting government spending, finding some creative new revenues, and praying that the just-approved economic stimulus package will help out the most.

To close the deficit, Rendell proposed cutting or eliminating 89% of the line items in the budget. He says he'll cut completely 20% of the line items, saving $395 million, and he'll reduce most of the others, saving $582 million. That's not enough. Rendell is counting on $1.1 billion from the Obama recovery plan to help pay for Medical Assistance (the state's version of Medicaid, health insurance for the poor). The guv also wants to raise taxes on cigarettes by a dime (up to $1.45 a pack) and impose a first-time tax on cigars and smokeless chewing tobacco. He is also freezing executive branch salaries and negotiating with state unions to scale back labor costs. The most interesting new proposal was to legalize and tax video poker machines, but Rendell is not really proposing to use this tax revenue to balance the budget. Rather, the money would subsidize a new program to allow families a rebate of up to $7,600 off annual tuition, fees, room and board when their kids attend a Pennsylvania community college or one of the PA state universities.

The Republicans, who control the state Senate, are not particularly enthusiastic about the governor's budget. If past is prologue, and it usually is in Harrisburg, watch for a lot of political posturing by both sides before the deals are cut in the backrooms around the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

Onorato Tries to Scare Opposition with Cash on Hand:

Sometime by June, Allegheny County executive Dan Onorato will announce his candidacy for governor. The Democrat hopes to break the jinx since WWII that dictates that after eight years of a Democrat in the governor's mansion it's the Republicans' turn. But before turning his attention to an election nearly 21 months away, Onorato needs to convince the state's Democrats that he's just the man to break that jinx. That's where the cash comes in.

The latest end-of-the-year campaign filings shows the conservative western PA Democrat has already raised more than $4 million in his quest to succeed Rendell. An astounding $2.2 million was raised in 2008, when most political money was being sucked up by the presidential and congressional candidates. Most of the other potential candidates on the Democratic side have nothing approaching a million bucks, let alone four million. This includes Lehigh County executive Don Cunningham, state Senate Democratic leader Bob Mellow of Scranton, Philadelphia millionaire businessman Tom Knox, and (the best known) state Auditor General Jack Wagner, who's also flirting with running for the U.S. Senate. Onorato's game plan is transparent. Scare these Dems out of the race for governor.

Coming from Pittsburgh, Onorato is not your typical Philadelphia Democrat. He is both socially and economically conservative. He is pro-life, pro-gun, and generally anti-tax, and anti-deficit spending. In five years as county executive, he has never raised county property taxes and vigorously opposed any reassessment of property in the county (a traditional back door way to raise revenue). He cut the size of Allegheny County's government by firing 700 county employees and pushing the consolidation of county elected offices from ten to four. His biggest "mistake" (according to his opponents) was the 10% alcoholic drink tax (now reduced to 7%), which Onorato pushed as a way to provide some dedicated funding for Allegheny County's public transit system. The drink tax is unpopular, and his opponents will surely use it against him. That doesn't bother Onorato at all, who has a scrappy but congenial in-your-face demeanor when it comes to his critics.

Can Onorato be defeated in a Democratic primary? Of course. He's not yet that well known outside of southwestern PA, and an opponent with money could hone in on the Pittsburgh native's conservative views, which will not be popular in Philadelphia or its suburbs where so many Democrats live. But Onorato will argue that, like U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, sometimes this is the best way for a Dem to win statewide office. We're at the early stages of this race, but I give Onorato credit for having a solid game plan and sticking to it.

Corbett Positions for the Governor's Mansion:

When the television cameras panned the crowd of legislators, elected officials, and guests gathered to hear the governor's annual budget address, one man was more than visible at the back of the House chamber: state Attorney General Tom Corbett. Corbett, who hails from suburban Pittsburgh and won a very impressive reelection last November, is the Republican heir-apparent to Rendell. When Rendell began his address by hailing the victory of the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, Corbett was spotted waving his Terrible Towel with gusto. History dictates that the Republicans will win in 2010, although the Dems could break that jinx because they have rarely been stronger in numbers and political clout than they are today. Whether Corbett is the right Republican to maintain tradition is a decision Republican voters will have to make next year.

Still, the attorney general, who made a name for himself by going after Democrats in the state legislature over bonuses allegedly paid to staffers for doing political work, is not the only candidate in the field. Former U.S. attorney Patrick Meehan, a suburban Philadelphian, has filed preliminary campaign papers and already raised $275,000 in his exploration of the quest. Meehan is well-known in the state's largest media market for his crime-fighting and anti-corruption cases, including the high profile case he filed (but left office before prosecuting) against former state Sen. Vincent Fumo. Meehan is no push-over for Corbett, although the political waters muddied a bit when U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, another suburban Philadelphian, announced he was exploring a run for governor. Gerlach, who has escaped defeat in his own congressional district a couple times, could easily split Republican votes in that region with Meehan. A fourth Republican expressing interest in the race is former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey of Lehigh County. Toomey, who now leads the economically conservative Club for Growth, will be remembered for coming within an eyelash of knocking off Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican primary for U.S. Senate. Toomey says he's interested in running because of the budget mess in Harrisburg, but another race against Specter could also be possible.

My own very early view is that, while Meehan and Toomey alone could each give Corbett a solid race, multiple candidates in the field only helps the southwestern PA native. How this sorts out in the months ahead is anybody's guess but, as the incumbent attorney general, Corbett alone has a statewide megaphone to act governmentally, which (by definition in this never-ending campaign season) means gubernatorially.

Arlen Specter Takes 'Em On:

Pennsylvania's senior U.S. senator is a unique piece of work. I have known him for nearly 30 years, and I have tremendous respect for the political skills of Arlen Specter, the longest-serving senator in PA history. Just when people count him out, he emerges victorious, a phoenix among the political carrion. The 79-year old senator, first elected in 1980, has no intention of retiring next year, and barring some medical calamity Specter's name will be on the ballot for a sixth 6-year term.

But, first, the Republican must engineer the shoals of his own unhappy party. Arlen Specter listens to his own drummer, which tends to march back and forth across the field rather than in any straight line. He is consistent in his unpredictability. So when he joined to two Republican senators from Maine to enact President Obama's economic recovery plan, it was not particularly surprising. But it has emboldened a number of Republicans who say, as they did in 2004, that it's time for Specter to retire - and if he won't, it's time to defeat him.

Could 2010 be the year of Specter's demise? Maybe, and maybe not. The 2004 Republican primary showed both strength and weakness in Specter's base within his own party. Pat Toomey got 513,693 votes to Specter's 530,839 that spring, with Philadelphia and its suburban counties putting Specter over the top. The key that year was also strong support for Specter from his then colleague, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, who encouraged his conservative supporters to back Specter over Toomey. It was enough for Specter to win the nomination, and then to go on to defeat U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel by 10 points and nearly 600,000 votes. Specter has always been a stronger general election candidate than he is in his own party.

Specter's support for Obama has spiked renewed interest among conservative Republicans to take him on next year. Toomey would be the obvious candidate, but he seems to be more interested in running for governor than senator. That leaves the field open to others like Peg Luksik, a conservative activist from Johnstown, who is no stranger to PA politics since she first made the scene by nearly defeating then-Republican Barbara Hafer for the GOP nomination for governor back in 1990. In 1994, she ran has an independent for governor and, again in 1998, she was the Constitutional Party candidate for governor. This past year, she was the campaign manager for William Russell, a newcomer who took on U.S. Rep. John Murtha in the 12th congressional district.

Another interesting candidate is Glen Meakem, a millionaire entrepreneur who lives in suburban Pittsburgh and founded a business-to-business internet firm called FreeMarkets. Now a venture capitalist and conservative talk show host, Meakem has caught the political bug. After Specter's embrace of Obama's economics, Meakem quickly circulated a statement, boldly predicting, "There will be a Republican primary fight for Specter's Senate seat in 2010, and I am going to be actively involved in electing someone who will do what's right for Pennsylvania taxpayers, not the Washington lobbyists." I've known Meakem for a number of years, and he would be an impressive candidate. Although a solid pro-life conservative, he served as campaign chair to Bill Scranton during Scranton's short run for governor in 2006 because he liked Scranton's conservative business views and because he thought Scranton would make a stronger opponent against Ed Rendell than local Steelers star Lynn Swann. Right now, Meakem - who is Harvard educated and served in the 1991 Iraq War -- says he's not a candidate, but much will depend on whether better-known and better-funded conservatives step forward to challenge Specter in the months ahead.

The Dems Smell Blood:

With Arlen Specter under attack in his own party, there's no shortage of Democrats eyeing the 2010 senate race. MSNBC's Chris Matthews would have been the most colorful of the bunch, but he has taken himself out of the race. I've known Chris since my congressional days, and I think he could have brought national visibility to the race, to say nothing of an incredible wealth of knowledge of government and politics. That leaves the field to others, including state auditor general Jack Wagner of Pittsburgh, who many think is well-positioned for the contest. A Vietnam veteran, wounded in combat, the generally conservative Wagner has a statewide pulpit to preach fiscal responsibility. Wagner is still toying with the governor's race, and that has encouraged others to step forward for Senate. But in a crowded Democratic field for Senate, Wagner has got to be considered a strong candidate.

Joe Torsella, a 45-year old Philadelphian best known for leading the effort to construct the marvelous National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, is hardly a household name outside of southeastern PA. But earlier this month he became the first Democrat to declare his interest in running for the U.S. Senate. Torsella is no stranger to politics, serving as then-Mayor Ed Rendell's deputy mayor for policy and planning while still in his 20s. A Rhodes scholar and Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of PA, Torsella has taken one stab at electoral politics, losing by just 2100 votes in the Democratic primary against U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz in the 13th congressional district in Montgomery County and northeastern Philadelphia.

While Torsella seems intent on running, other Dems are toying with the idea, including two Philadelphia area members of Congress: the aforementioned Allyson Schwartz and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, from the 8th district which is primarily in Bucks County. Schwartz is no stranger to statewide politics. In 2000, she ran for the Democratic nomination for Senate to take on Santorum, making a lot of friends along the way. With 26% of the vote, the pro-choice Schwartz came in second to the pro-life U.S. Rep. Ron Klink of Pittsburgh who got 40% of the vote. It didn't help that four other candidates on the ballot that year came from eastern PA. Schwartz is an unapologetic advocate for women's rights and an indefatigable fundraiser, and if she gets in the race will be formidable.

Patrick Murphy is a relative newcomer to politics, having just won his second term in Congress in suburban Philly. The 35-year old lawyer is the only Iraq War veteran serving in Congress, and he was the only Pennsylvania congressman to endorse Barack Obama in the PA primary last year. During his first term, Murphy was a consistent critic of President Bush's handling of the war, and his close ties to the Obama administration could help him if he chooses to make a run for Senate.

As if three Philadelphians weren't enough, there's a fourth potential candidate from that region, state Rep. Josh Shapiro of Montgomery County. The 35-year old state rep was first elected to Harrisburg in 2004 and has already achieved some recognition in that body. He co-chaired the House commission that came up with a number of legislative reform measures, many of which were enacted. A lawyer, Shapiro began his political career on Capitol Hill in Washington where he served several members of Congress, including a stint as chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. Joe Hoeffel.

No matter who gets the Democratic nomination, if Arlen Specter survives his primary, he's still the favorite for reelection. Having helped President Obama win his first major battle as president, watch for Specter to get a little bit of something from this White House. It's all part of the game. And few play it better than Specter, which is why a lot of folks have lost money over the years betting against him.

I've got a whole lot more Pennsylvania politics to cover, including the race for mayor of Pittsburgh, but let's leave something for my next PSF. Again, if you've got an interesting political tidbit, please send it along, knowing that I always consider your emails off-the-record! If you're lucky enough to get today off - I'm not - enjoy the day. Remember, we're celebrating the birthday of George Washington, not the less-than-luminary careers of so many of his successors.

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