Penn: Is Obama Poised For Spectacular Upset?

Polls indicate that Clinton is still in the lead in Pennsylvania, but with important endorsements coming at a crucial time, pollsters might want to hold off on their predictions regarding the outcome of the Pennsylvania primary.

[Elections 2008: View From Pittsburgh]


In the past week, two highly influential institutions in Pittsburgh endorsed Sen. Barack Obama.

In a statement released on April 14th, Dan Rooney, owner and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers organization, took an unusual step when he endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate, comparing Obama to the Steelers who Rooney said were considered “underdogs” before winning five NFL Super Bowls.

“Based on the experiences that I have had in my seventy-five years and my assessment of what I think our nation needs to make real the change that is so needed, I am proud and now feel compelled to endorse Senator Barack Obama,” Rooney said in a open letter to Pennsylvanians.

The Obama campaign said the Illinois senator and Rooney met Monday after Obama spoke at a meeting of the Alliance for American Manufacturing at the David Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton also spoke at the event.

Last month, former Steelers running backs Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis endorsed Obama after a forum held at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall near the University of Pittsburgh. Harris and Bettis also accompanied Senator Obama on portions of his six-day bus tour of Pennsylvania.

To the surprise of many Western Pennsylvanians, on April 16, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette endorsed Senator Obama. In an insightful editorial, that outlined the newspaper’s reasons for choosing Obama over Clinton, the Post Gazette went against high profile Clinton supporters such as Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. The endorsement came only days after Rooney’s announcement and a week before the Pennsylvania primary.

Deputy Editorial Page Editor Reg Henry wrote “Pennsylvania — this encrusted, change-averse commonwealth where a state liquor monopoly holds on against all reason and where municipal fiefdoms shrink from sensible consolidation — needs to take a strong look at the new face and the new hope in this race. Because political business-as-usual is more likely to bring the usual disappointment for the Democrats this fall, the Post-Gazette endorses the nomination of Barack Obama, who has brought an excitement and an electricity to American politics not seen since the days of John F. Kennedy.”

While many applauded the Post Gazette’s decision, some readers were outraged. “I see the good old boys’ club is still alive and well in the Burgh—to think that putting another man in the white house is change,” said Gloria Ricci of Jeanette, Pennsylvania

Sue Roselle who lives in Churchhill, a suburb of Pittsburgh, said she was offended by Henry’s comments regarding Senator Clinton and the aspirations of women. Roselle defended Clinton’s accomplishments and rejected the idea put forth by Henry that “Sen. Clinton carries the aspirations of women in particular, but even in this she is something of a throwback, a woman whose identity and public position are indelibly linked to her husband.”

“Sen. Clinton is referred to as a ‘throwback’ because she shares her ideological and political values with her husband, the former president of the United States?” Roselle responded. “Was it necessary to replay the prejudice that successful women who are associated with successful men owe their success to those men?”

Others expressed excitement over the recent endorsements, which only add to the high-profile endorsements Obama has already received from Teresa Heinz-Kerry, a respected philanthropist and business woman from Pittsburgh and Senator Bob Casey, who is popular with voters throughout Pennsylvania.

Last month, Casey, broke from the follow-the-leader mentality of the local and statewide Democratic party, led by Gov. Rendell, to endorse Obama. “This campaign is a chance for America to chart a new course, to go down a different path, a path, first of all, of change; a path of a new kind of politics and finally a path of hope and healing,” Sen. Casey told the audience at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall during Obama’s first appearance in Pittsburgh.

In a press conference and rally on April 18, held outside Heinz Field amidst chanting Obama supporters and Steeler fans, Dan Rooney, former Steelers running back Franco Harris, corner back J.T. Thomas , defensive linemen Dwight White and Edmond Nelson along with line backer Robin Cole officially endorsed Sen. Obama. Also on stage were Judy O’Connor, wife of former Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor who died suddenly after only six months in office and Senator Bob Casey.

Polls indicate that Clinton is still in the lead in Pennsylvania, but with important endorsements coming at a crucial time, pollsters might want to hold off on their predictions regarding the outcome of the Pennsylvania primary.

The Post Gazette has an excellent record of predicting primary winners and Dan Rooney is a beloved community member of Pittsburgh and well-regarded in counties across the state of Pennsylvania. Rooney, Casey, Heinz-Kerry and Judy O’Connor are prominent Pennsylvania Catholics. White males and Catholics are two important target groups that Sen. Obama must win if he is to close the gap in Pennsylvania. .

“As a grandfather and citizen of this community said Rooney, I think Barack Obama’s thoughtful, strategic approach is important to America. When I hear how excited the young seem to be when they talk to this great man, I believe he will do what’s best for them, which is to inspire them to be great Americans.”

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