POLS ON THE STREET: Philly to Play Huge Role in Presidential Race

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SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN was a crowd favorite at the NetRoots nation convention in Philadelphia.

BY JOE SHAHEELI
Even as the southern border was being besieged by asylum seekers, Philadelphia experienced a steady parade of Oval-Office seekers this week. Expect it to be a foretaste of months to come.

Four of the 25 announced candidates for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination participated in a forum on Saturday, the closing night of Netroots Nation’s 19th annual national conference, the first time it has been held in Philadelphia. U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) joined former HUD Secretary, now Congressman Julián Castro (Tex.) and Gov. Jay Inslee (Wash.) on stage before a throng of more than 2,000 hardcore liberals to listen to Daily Kos hosts and audience activists lob softball questions at them.

There wasn’t much of policy substance to learn. The candidates knew they had to take stands that were patiently progressive before this crowd. It was more a test of performance: Who could sound bolder and fierier, who could ring the audience’s bell more loudly?

NETROOTS NATION’S presidential forum was a test of progressive bona fides for 3,000 attendees at the Convention Center last weekend.

Warren came in with a large advantage. She has been attending Netroots Nation confabs for more than a decade and faced a ready-made fan club prepped with signs and lusty cheers. But Gillibrand showed a dramatic, emotive stage presence as well.

Castro, having run a branch of government, sounded more comfortable critiquing government policies. Enslee confronted a potential handicap before that crowd of being the only older white male; but he talked a good fight, espousing combative progressive causes with sharp-tongued vigor.

CONGRESSMAN Julián Castro cited his experience as HUD secretary.

All were fighting for a toehold among committed leftwing activists.

That was Saturday. On Monday came U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders to weigh in at a rally to protest the impending closure of Hahnemann University Hospital, a challenge at the top of local concerns and liberal action lists. It could have been mistaken for a Sanders campaign rally.

Another Democratic presidential hopeful, former Vice President Joe Biden, skipped Netroots Nation, wisely so – it wasn’t his crowd. But he has quietly established his national campaign headquarters in the City of Brotherly Love and, he hopes, Democratic Affection.

Did we mention another fellow who’s running for the Oval Office? That’s the guy who now occupies it. Republican President Donald Trump didn’t show up in person. But on Tuesday, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump led a rally of “Women for Trump” in King of Prussia.

What does this teach us, class? It’s that Philadelphia will be disproportionately powerful in the 2020 presidential race.

It is essential that Democratic primary candidates fire up the largest pool of Democratic voters in Pennsylvania. They are urban, largely minority voters of the sort that Trump revels in provoking, so the candidate who cannot satisfy them faces a tough path to nomination.

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND displayed verve and stage presence in working a progressive crowd.

After the DNC, the party nominee desperately needs to maximize turnout in Philadelphia to counter bluecollar defections to Trump midstate and in the west. They need enthusiasm: high turnout here, depressed turnout there.

On Trump’s part, he desperately needs to stem losses among white suburban women that have been turning the electoral map against Republicans. Thus the descent of Lara upon King of Prussia. Trump won Pennsylvania by only 44,000 votes in 2016 and his current polling numbers look grim in suburbia, which already had its doubts then.

To all camps, then, Philadelphia is key – both in its hometown vote pool and in its massive regional media market, the largest in the state, with suburbanites who increasingly identify with their central city rather than against it.

So plan on seeing all these candidates, and many more, in town over the coming months. Again and again and again.

Maybe you should look for a short-term gig in event security.

Fattah Loses Appeal, Stays in Prison

GOV. JAY INSLEE wielded a shar tongue vow aggressive dismantling of President Donald Trump’s policies.

Former Congressman Chaka Fattah lost his final effort to reduce his prison term in Federal Courthouse last week. Like many others before him, he will serve his time.

He had staked his hopes on the fact some charges against him had been thrown out on appeal; but not enough, apparently.

Going to prison makes few politicians proud. But it is a path that others have walked before. It does not mean these persons accomplished no public good in their careers – quite the contrary. And it does not mean they cannot find an honorable path of public service after their release.

We wish as much for the congressman, who accomplished much good for Philadelphia when in office.

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