This year, it actually matters what Pennsylvania does in the presidential primaries. In particular, it matters what Philadelphia does.
Look, usually, the party’s nominee has his acceptance speech written by the time anybody bothers asking Pennsylvania what it thinks. When we vote in April, most of the primaries and caucuses have come and gone, the vast majority of delegates are booking hotel rooms for the convention, and, more to the point, the Republican Party has lined up behind somebody or other.
In fact, it’s usually already happened by now. But not this year.
Maybe things haven’t gelled because the front-runner, Mitt Romney, doesn’t quite gel either. He has only 519 of the 1,144 delegates he needs to seal the nomination, and Rick Santorum is still very much in the race with 239 (depending on whose numbers you use; I’m using CNN’s).
Sure, the primaries are moving toward more liberal territories such as California and New York. But they still include rich pockets of Santorum loyalists – including and especially his home base of Pennsylvania on April 24.
So why is Philadelphia important? Because, let’s face it, we don’t agree with the rest of the state.
The city is a bastion of relative liberalism – of gay rights and social programs and snooty, artsy college kids. We know how statewide elections usually go – a patch of blue in Philadelphia and surrounding counties, another spot in and around Pittsburgh, and a sea of red in the middle. If any kind of moderate backlash can happen in Pennsylvania, it’ll be here.
Will it really make a difference that Santorum wins his home state? Actually, at this point, yeah. Pennsylvania is always a huge win – 72 delegates. (The highest Santorum likely will get anywhere else is Texas, where’s he’s running a near second in a state that has 155 delegates and awards them proportionately.)
And if Santorum can keep up momentum, Romney may not quite capture that magic 1,144. Then we get a brokered convention. Delegates no longer have to vote the way their home state told them. Deals are made. Accidents happen. If you know what I mean. Wink, wink.
And Santorum is verrrry interested in that.