The phones have been ringing off the hook across the length and breadth of the Keystone State and those who might have answering machines have come home only to find they have to cull through numerous messages from campaign workers on behalf of the two surviving Democratic Party presidential contenders, Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. As I jokingly told the hostess of a social gathering I very recently attended just outside of Philadelphia: "My relatives in New Hampshire would have rather little sympathy for you; after all, they go through all of this every four years!"
Like it or not, the Presidential Primary "season" now resumes, after a six-week hiatus since Mississippi's Primary back on 11 March (which, at least right now, seems like it could best be comprehended on an almost geological time scale!), with Pennsylvania's Primaries (here plural, for we are now in the portion of the "season" in which almost all the States yet to hold National Convention delegate selection "events" purposely time them to coincide with their Primaries for other, down-ballot, elective offices) on Tuesday 22 April.
The great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is, in reality, two different "States". In the Keystone State, the exit numbers along the Interstates are based on the nearest milepost and the driver crossing the Delaware River from New Jersey along the connector between the New Jersey Turnpike and Pennsylvania's equivalent will easily find the confronting of signs for "Exit 358" immediately after so crossing to be rather instructive in this regard.
Doubtless, those of you reading this last sentence who might happen to reside in the vastness of either the Intermountain West or Texas, or even California, will find such consternation on the part of a driver from New Jersey or one of the New England States at least somewhat amusing, where not downright laughable, but- compared to the rest of the Northeast USofA ("Gateway to America"-- or, as I very often call my native, and current, region of the country in correspondence with a dear friend of mine currently residing in Texas, "the Land of Tiny States")- Pennsylvania is, indeed, huge! For, although only 33rd in area among all 50 of the constituents of the American Union, it is 2d only to neighboring New York State in area within its own section of the Nation and, no less than that same New York with its own sobriquet "The Empire State", contains what, at least in antebellum- if not even down to fairly recent- times, could rightfully be considered to be a "seat of empire".
Indeed, it took a while before what is now westernmost Pennsylvania even knew it was actually part of the Keystone State! For, when Pittsburgh was founded in 1758- as a supporting community for Fort Pitt, as that particular military installation was to be known once the British had seized what the French had called Fort Duquesne- it was thought to be part of Virginia's vast claims to the Ohio River Valley that would, eventually, become the Northwest Territory of early American History (indeed, when the first British fort was set up at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela where they form the Ohio [and it was this fort that the French had taken over and turned into their Fort Duquesne in the first place], it was done so under the auspices of a military survey party led by young George Washington who carried the commission of the Royal Governor of the Old Dominion).
In 1768, Virginia even went ahead and formally set up civil governance for the town (primarily in the form of extending the long arm of Virginia's local-level Judiciary to Pittsburgh). The roughly contemporaneous work of the English astronomers Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in laying out their (in?)famous "Mason's and Dixon's Line" between Pennsylvania and Maryland (and, ultimately, Virginia) along 39 degrees, 43 minutes North Latitude might well have prevented this (Pittsburgh being well north of that particular parallel- at 40 degrees, 27 minutes North) but for the fact that, in that very same year, Mason and Dixon were forced to suddenly halt their work due to the hostility of resident Native American Indian tribes along the Monongahela well south of Pittsburgh.
Thus, it would not be until the mid-1780s (by which time, regardless of in which State it might really be, Pittsburgh was certainly well ensconced within the new United States of America) that Pennsylvania native Andrew Ellicott could lead a surveying party which would run Mason and Dixon's Line westward through the entirety of that very "five degrees of Longitude" granted to William Penn in the original Charter of Pennsylvania more than a century before. "Penn's woods" was, per that very Charter, supposed to begin in the Delaware River at what is now approximately 75 1/2 degrees Longitude West of Greenwich, thus extend to approximately 80 1/2 degrees West Longitude and- whoops!- Pittsburgh sits at just about at 80 degrees West Longitude exactly, too far east to be part of Virginia's Northwest Territory claim: this was all too well confirmed when this now-well defined western border of Pennsylvania was thereafter run north to the banks of the Ohio River itself, well west of the Allegheny/Monongahela confluence at which Pittsburgh sits (a line that would also lead to the existence of the "panhandle" of what is now West Virginia in the vicinity of Wheeling).
The point of this whole "trip down Collective Memory Lane" is that, in the context of Colonial and, later, Early Federal America as a whole and, within at least the Northeastern States to this very day, Pennsylvania is quite a large State that, in reality, straddles two major regions of the Nation. Though the journalist Joel Garreau, in his seminal 1981 work The Nine Nations of North America (which, by the way, I highly recommend as a very good introductory guide to the sectional and regional differences within both the United States and Canada, even now- over a quarter century after its original publication) considers all of Pennsylvania to be within the "Nation" he calls "The Foundry" (or, if you will, the "Industrial Heartland" or "the Rust Belt"), I myself would argue that Garreau's "The Foundry" be further divided into two "Provinces": "Gateway" (that portion of "The Foundry" within, or at least closest to, Jean Gottman's "Megalopolis"- the "Northeast Corridor" of "BosWash" [meaning "Boston-to-Washington": though I myself would suggest this, instead, be called "NorPort", a abbreviation-as-pun (of sorts) referring to "the Northeastern American Port Cities" but also meaning "Norfolk (Virginia) to Portland (Maine)"]) and "Lakeland" (that portion of Garreau's "The Foundry" which can be considered to be more one with the Great Lakes States, such as Ohio and Michigan).
Thereby, eastern Pennsylvania is clearly part of my "Gateway", while- at the same time- the western part of the Keystone State that, nearly 225 years ago, suddenly found itself so unceremoniously wrested from the clutches of Virginia is, equally as clearly, part of my "Lakeland". It is certainly no accident that Philadelphia is an important transportation hub along the Northeast Corridor between New York and Baltimore/Washington, while Pittsburgh has an industrial history to match that of Cleveland, Detroit or even Chicago and Milwaukee; heck, even the type of coal in each part of the State is different!: Bituminous has long been the stuff of western Pennsylvania's "Black Silver" (if we deem oil [also first effectively produced in western Pennsylvania, by the way] to be "Black Gold") while it was such as "the Road of Anthracite" (as the old "Lackawanna Railroad"- the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western, whose tracks [now part of something called "NJTransit"] still bifurcate the very New Jersey town in which I am now typing these words- once promoted itself) which brought that type of coal from eastern Pennsylvania to shipment out from the Port of New York and New Jersey.
No wonder Harrisburg, nearer the center of the State along the mighty Susquehanna that divides it in twain, became the State Capital in the second decade of the 19th Century!
The political differences between the two sections of the Keystone State are, likewise, readily apparent- or, at least, they were until Senator Rick Santorum was defeated for re-election to a potential third term in 2006. For twelve years- from when Santorum himself defeated an incumbent in the Republican Tidal Wave of the 1994 Midterm Elections to first take his U.S. Senate seat- Pennsylvania had two Republican Senators, but- despite their common Party label- they were, in many ways, very different: Santorum is a scion of western Pennsylvania and was- at least so long as he remained in office- the darling of sociocultural conservatives; his colleague, Arlen Specter (still incumbent in the United States Senate, by the way), established his political career as a prosecutor in Philadelphia (although, interestingly, Specter is a native of Kansas and, indeed, grew up in the same town as former Kansas Senator- and 1996 GOP presidential nominee- Bob Dole) and, as a denizen of eastern Pennsylvania was (and remains) hardly so!
If nothing else, the two rather different versions of the same Party label "Republican" seen in these two men should provide a good clue to Pennsylvania's political bifurcation, one that also similarly divides the State's Democrats as well.
Nevertheless, despite these differences between the two sections of Pennsylvania, none of this should at all much matter in the upcoming Democratic Presidential Primary for, considering how much eastern Pennsylvania more resembles, say, New Jersey while western Pennsylvania might more resemble, say, Ohio, both New Jersey and Ohio are States in which Senator Hillary Clinton has already won Presidential Primaries! In fact, New York State- itself just as split as is Pennsylvania between my "Gateway" and "Lakeland" (just compare New York City to Buffalo in much the same way I earlier compared Philadelphia to Pittsburgh)- is probably most instructive and, indeed, Senator Clinton won that State's Presidential Primary as well (with the obvious caveat that Mrs. Clinton, after all, happens to be that State's Junior Senator re-elected to a second term in 2006 and the influence of this fact on her own State's 'Super Duper' Tuesday Primary cannot be at all ignored).
Thus, even without bothering to look over the latest polling numbers, one has to assume that Senator Clinton has something of a built-in advantage in both halves of Pennsylvania. In other words, Hillary Clinton should win the Keystone State's Primary this coming Tuesday; indeed, she must win- for, as has been the case ever since her victories in Ohio and Texas back on 4 March (which, again, seems more an eternity than a mere 7 weeks ago as I type this), while she cannot yet knock Senator Obama "out of the box", he can- with his own victory in Pennsylvania- potentially knock her "out of the box"!
As I've written in the Mission Statement of this very website:
Politics is, more than anything else, Sport.
And, as in Sports, "a win is a win is a win". A 10-9 victory by a Baseball team is, in the end, no more a victory than a 1-0 win by that same team and, in either case, counts as merely one more Win added to the team's line in the Standings of the Clubs published in the Sports section of next morning's newspaper (or, for that matter, posted online within seconds of the final out being recorded)-- likewise, for the losers, it is merely one more added in the Loss column of their own line in those very same Standings:
so it is in Politics--
Senator Clinton winning Pennsylvania would be nothing more than one that clearly allows her to fight again another day (that day being Tuesday 6 May in both Indiana and North Carolina). The proportional system of National Convention delegate distribution used by the Democrats simply means that Senator Clinton will gain, albeit but relatively slightly, on Senator Obama in terms of pledged delegates but, by no means, will at all overtake him in this particular accounting with what is expected to be her victory therein (absent, of course, some as yet unforeseen- where not also highly unlikely- result coming out of the Keystone State this coming Tuesday evening). But, in the main, all Mrs. Clinton can do is slow down Mr. Obama's momentum; even with such things as "Bitter-gate", she cannot- at least, not as of yet- impede it.
If nothing else, Mississippi suggested that support for Obama was not at all dissipated by Clinton's "comebacks" in Ohio and Texas the week before. So it appears we will, once the votes in Pennsylvania have been cast, all have to wait yet another two weeks- if not still longer- to see if things finally begin to get better sorted out on the Democratic side of the presidential nomination ledger. An Obama win in North Carolina, if not also Indiana, would relegate a Clinton victory in Pennsylvania to the same status as her 4 March victories: one of "better luck next time"!
A surprise Obama victory in Pennsylvania, on the other hand- even one that is by the merest of percentage points, may well prove to have an altogether disastrous impact upon Senator Clinton's continuing presidential aspirations. Thus, the very reason behind all those phone calls and answering machine messages to registered Democrats in the Keystone State as the next Presidential Primary now- finally!- looms the more imminently.