Sunday, October 28, 2007

What they said

I wish I could convince myself that newspaper endorsements made a difference in political campaigns, because the Post-Gazette's endorsement of Mark DeSantis -- the paper's first endorsement for a Republican since 1969 -- is a doozy. Here are some highlights:

Why should a city dominated by Democrats consider a Republican for mayor? Because one-party rule has failed Pittsburgh and failed it repeatedly. It has failed to prevent population loss and business erosion. It has failed to head off the city's near-bankruptcy and job loss. It has failed to generate the big ideas that should be propelling Pittsburgh into the 21st century.

A Democratic mayor and a nine-member Democratic council have robbed the city of the robust political competition that renews the state and keeps the federal government in check. We see the invigorating value of shifting party control in Harrisburg and Washington, but on Grant Street we see rust, cobwebs and a city bravely trying to manage its own decline. ...

On the substance of governing, too, Mayor Ravenstahl has left much to be desired. Sure, he has continued his predecessor's "redd-up" campaign, stepped up the tear-down of abandoned buildings, sworn off new borrowing and submitted two balanced budgets.

But he is unable, despite his fresh arrival and the promise of generational change, to think big enough to break with the past. Instead of privatizing a service like trash collection, he extends it to Wilkinsburg -- not because it saves Pittsburgh money but because it's created a few more city jobs while helping a municipal neighbor. Instead of initiating action to combine services with the county, he's merely open to discussion and waiting to see a blueprint "put in front of me" (translation: not really interested). ...

(DeSantis) is tired of a city that puts up new buildings and sunny facades without adding net new jobs and businesses. He's heard enough talk and seen too little action on city-county consolidation, especially when both entities are led by Democrats. He's grown impatient with the sacred cows preserved by one-party rule, whether it's the number of fire stations, the size of the city budget or a lax approach to ethical behavior.

He wants to approach long-standing problems in a different way. Besides extracting more voluntary contributions from tax-exempt institutions, Mr. DeSantis says Pittsburgh should look beyond cash and, for instance, negotiate a deal with UPMC, the region's most profitable nonprofit, to provide health care for city retirees. He wants an ethics policy for city officials and employees that prohibits all freebies and uses an ethics compliance officer for enforcement. He wants city departments not just to operate well but to be judged against other cities' performance.

I can't call it persuasive because I had already made up my mind to vote for DeSantis, but it's the most eloquent case for the challenger that I've seen yet.

Speaking of Mark DeSantis, he is branded a "Republican insider" in a piece of campaign literature I received in the mail over the weekend from the Ravenstahl campaign. Fair enough. The flyer zings DeSantis for working for the first President Bush and for contributing to the campaigns of Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. (Though notable for its absence is any mention of DeSantis' affiliation with the late Sen. John Heinz, who remains a revered figure, even in Democratic Pittsburgh.)

But in calling DeSantis out for connections to Santorum and the current president, the flyer says that "Their policies were wrong for Pittsburgh..." Gee, I didn't know that Santorum or Bush had any Pittsburgh policies. Even if Mark DeSantis agreed with the president's decision to invade Iraq, I don't think we have to worry, since Pittsburgh does not currently possess any military forces. And if the president or the former senator had any views on, say, whether we should close fire stations or merge services with the county, they were not covered on Fox News.

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Blogger Schultz said...

I have talked to a lot of people who are not voting for Mark because he is a Republican. They could care less if Satan was running on the Democratic ticket - they would vote for Satan over Jesus himself if Jesus was an R. They've pretty much stated this, in their own words of course.

"I wouldn't vote for Mark DeSantis if he was the only candidate in the race."

I've come across some real characters during my time out on the campaign trail.

"Luke is a young guy, we (still) need to give him a chance. He is young so he is going to make mistakes."

I'm tired of hearing this one. I can't even debate them they are so crazy, and they cannot even name one single legitimate reason why they are voting for Ravenstahl.

The new Ravenstahl lit offers nothing new on DeSantis. His support for Bush and Santorum has been public knowledge for some time now. People are already not going to vote for him because of it.

8:09 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Given the optimistic tone of many of the comments you've left on various blogs regarding DeSantis' chances, I'm going to take your apparent discouragement as a very bad sign.

9:01 PM

Blogger Schultz said...

I left out the fact that more people seem to be either undecided or already voting for DeSantis. My previous post was about the fact that people are already not voting for DeSantis because of the Bush/Santorum times, or that he is a Republican.

I still believe that the people who want change outnumber those who are going to take the time to go to the polls to vote for Luke. It is going to be close and I think it will come down to voter turnout. If 60,000+ make it to the polls then it won't look good for DeSantis. I am thinking he'll get at least 25,000 votes, possibly a few thousand more.

10:25 AM

Blogger C. Briem said...

Both sides now have extensive internal polling on where the public is at right now and I suspect they are quite consistent.. There should be no need for all the personal anecdotes out there... Typically the side doing better releases their poll numbers, or at least 'leaks' them clearly, and the other disputes the numbers. The really odd thing these days is that neither side has put numbers out there, either directly or indirectly. Why that is is an interesting question.

5:23 PM

Blogger Chad said...

You're wrong, Chris. The DeSantis campaign has not done any polling. None. At all.

There were rumblings that the Ravenstahl campaign was doing some polling a few weeks ago. They were never confirmed. No numbers ever leaked. But then the negative ads appeared. Feel free to draw your own conclusions about that.

10:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Either neither side has done any polls (possible), or neither side likes what they have to say (low support for Ravenstahl--40ish, high undecideds, and low support for DeSantis--mid 30's--is a recipe for neither side to leak their numbers). But it's possible that nobody has done any polls.

It'll take 28,000 votes to win, maybe a little more or less depending on turnout.

As for the flier, since he made it an issue, does anybody know what Luke Ravenstahl thought of the Iraq War. I know Council voted on a resolution about the war in 2003, but I guess that was before the Mayor's time on council.

11:21 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

If Luke really thought he was in trouble, he'd be running negative TV ads. The mailer doesn't really make much sense, even if it's sent to targeted voters. I think he thinks that his margin might be uncomfortably low (low to mid 50's), and he is worried about internal Democratic implications of that for the 2009 primary. So he's going negative hoping to reduce his opponent's voters, and increase his margin by suppressing turnout. A risky strategy though because that can backfire, big time.

And it makes sense for DeSantis to not do any polling. If you hire a consultant to do it, they're pricey. It'd probably be a full 6th of his campaign budget. Besides, the only one that matters is next Tuesday

11:26 PM

Blogger Michael Tedesco said...

This debate (or lack thereof) goes to the core of the problems with our political process. What do we know about DeSantis? What do we know about the boy mayor? Rather than actually debate about the future of Pittsburgh we once again find ourselves rapidly approaching a major election with a completely uninformed electorate.

I honestly might find DeSantis the right choice but damned if anyone is going to make it easy on me (or any voter for that matter). I could give two shits whether he donated to Bush or Santorum, of course he did - he is a Republican party politician. I would really question him if he had not.

Elections should be about the candidates positions, their plans, their visions. Sadly, they are most often about none of this and as a result it doesn't matter who the winner is because the loser is the electorate.

I hope that in the coming days Ravenstahl and DeSantis can knock off the crap and show us who they really are. The citizens of Pittsburgh are smart enough to ignore party affiliation and elect the right person if only given the right information.

3:26 PM

Blogger EdHeath said...

If there is a “completely uninformed electorate” it has to be the electorate’s fault. Both candidates have been pretty heavily covered in print, on the tube and on the net. Both candidates have websites up, with streaming video for those who want to see them talk. DeSantis has some content on his website, in the form of outlines of policy, the Mayor has no text on his website. However, there are lots of PG and Trib stories about the Mayor’s actions, his proposed budget, his lifestyle. There was a profile on each man in the last two Sunday PG’s, including perfunctory nods to their faults.

I know many people’s eyes roll at the mention of politics. And for many other people, the only information they trust comes from a political party or perhaps from a slanted news source from whatever end of the political spectrum. And many more have already burnt out on the election, although DeSantis started campaigning in earnest rather late. But I have to say that with every election, the ability of the internet to provide even more information than the last election gives us that much more information about the candidates.

If your only source of information is direct ad mailers, than yeah, you don’t know much. Check out the (baffling) PG website, do a search or two.

6:35 AM

Blogger Michael Tedesco said...

Yea, my only source of info is direct ad mailers...

10:24 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I can't speak for Michael but I suspect what he's getting at is a long-standing criticism of campaign coverage -- that it tends to focus less on issues and more on so-called "horse race" matters, like who has the most money, the best-run campaign, the most endorsements, etc.

I think the candidates and the media have addressed a handful of the important issues the city faces. DeSantis has put forward plans for cutting government and taxes, and for filling the pension shortfall. Ravenstahl has discussed what he believes are substantial accomplishments. I do think that we have a rough idea how each candidate plans to govern, though it is admittedly an incomplete picture.

12:34 PM


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