Make Every Vote Matter

By the time polls opened, there were 170 voters waiting at our local polling location. The neighborhood cafe was bringing coffee to voters. Inspiring. The candidates have spent record amounts of time, money and stars courting Pennsylvania voters. The least we can do is return the favor by turning out in record numbers.

By Karen Heller

Inquirer Columnist

Our big day is finally here. It's like the World Series, with less beer but more lawn signs. It's like Christmas, except it cost so much more while taking twice as long to arrive.

Don't you love being popular? The candidates phone. Gov. Rendell calls repeatedly. Mayor Nutter rings. Bill and Hillary Clinton and Danny Glover, too.

Is Barack Obama canvassing your dreams? Mine, too! Possibly because he ran 978 ads in Philadelphia between Oct. 21 and 28. That's almost 140 a day, more political ads here than he bought in any other market. He loves us!

Know who else does? John McCain. In one week, he ran 334 ads in Philadelphia, 350 in Harrisburg.

On Pennsylvania, they agree: We're alluring. We're enticing. They can't get enough of us - and our 21 comely electoral votes.

When it comes to presidential politics, we know what it's like to be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

You've got a voter in PA

Obama has been in Pennsylvania 21 days this year. McCain, in Delaware County on Sunday and Pittsburgh yesterday, bested him with 30. Perhaps he qualifies for residency. Sarah Palin campaigned 14 days in our state, almost every fifth day of her candidacy. Joe Biden? He's here all the time. After all, isn't Delaware a tax-free bedroom community of Philadelphia?

Between Biden and the Clintons, they've turned Scranton - his hometown, Hillary's father's hometown - into the Blue-Collar Town of 2008, a news constant now famous for more than anthracite coal and Dunder Mifflin.

Can Pennsylvania do spoiled, become the pampered princess of politics, after so many election cycles of neglect?

Yes, my friends, we can.

Pennsylvania blew up in the spring, when the April 22 primary that was supposed to be an afterthought, a hiccup in the electoral process, became a big deal and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama basically moved here for six weeks.

In March, Obama delivered his race speech at the Constitution Center. A month later, he debated Hillary Clinton there. In between, he took a six-day bus tour across the state, hitting his campaign's athletic nadir in Altoona, his gutterball Waterloo, bowling a dismal 37.

Love us, don't leave us

You know what Pennsylvania has that la-di-dah California and New York don't have? The candidates' money. Sure, they go there to raise funds, but they spend it on us.

In the primary, Obama and Clinton spent almost $16.5 million in advertising - and who knows how much on coffee and snacks? - more than in any other state but Iowa, according to University of Wisconsin Advertising Project, which monitors political advertising.

From June 3, the end of the primary season, to July 26, the candidates spent $10,319,000 in advertising in Pennsylvania, far more than in any other state.

From Sept. 28 to Oct. 4, the campaigns and interest groups spent $3.8 million on ads, bested only by Ohio. Last week, they spent $4.1 million on ads, more than in any other state but Florida. McCain's spending is all the more remarkable given that he's behind in every poll.

Politicos are like hedge-fund managers before the subprime collapse, and AIG execs afterward.

Quite possibly, when the cumulative amounts are tallied, Pennsylvanians will lead the nation in being bombarded by the most advertising over the longest period of this endless election cycle.

There should be a prize for such things. Will we get anything in return? Will the victor send us some of the lovely pork that other states have feasted on for years? Have you ever traveled the highways of New Hampshire or Iowa? Paved in gold, smooth as silk.

Today, after so much attention, we vote. Let's have a turnout that reflects the enormous attention Pennsylvania voters have garnered, knowing that the state truly matters and, with any luck, will continue to matter long after this amazing, historic season is behind us.

Contact staff writer Karen Heller at 215-854-2586 or

Buzz up!