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Wednesday, November 7th 2012

4:42 PM

Four More Years - and Six More Months

The 2012 campaign has finally come to an end with President Barack Obama winning a hard-fought second term in the White House. The campaign seemed to last a really long time. Exactly how long depends on whether you count Mitt Romney's campaign as starting sometime in 2011 or whether you take the starting point all the way back to when he campaigned (and lost) to be the GOP's nominee in 2008. In any case, it went on and on and didn't end until Romney finally conceded around 1 a.m. on Wednesday. He kept the popular vote pretty close, but lost the Electoral College by a substantial margin (as of this writing, Florida is still undecided, but Obama already has more than 300 electoral votes so, unlike 2000, Florida doesn't really matter).

I spent about six weeks organizing election coverage for the local TV station where I work. We reported results from PA and around the country for the presidential race, but we were largely focused on statewide races including US Senator and row offices. We also covered assorted Congressional and General Assembly races. You can check out the Pennsylvania results HERE.

For the most part, the night brought very few surprises. The candidates who were expected to win, did. My one exception would be the race for PA Auditor General, where Democrat Eugene DePasquale defeated Republican John Maher. I didn't follow the race closely in the weeks and months leading up to the election, but I guess I figured that Maher would win. But, I did see a commercial for DePasquale during the final week, and I suspect he was helped by the strength of other Democrats on the ticket, including Sen. Bob Casey and Pres. Obama. I also wonder if there may not be some kind of anti-GOP backlash going on, considering that Gov. Corbett's approval ratings are very low.

If anything surprised me, it would be that the winners' margins of victory - especially on the Democratic side - were higher than expected. Despite GOP claims that Pennsylvania was "in play" for Romney and that Senate candidate Tom Smith was making a race of it with Bob Casey, Pres. Obama won the state by about 5 points and Casey won by 9. Perhaps not landslide margins, but not as close as the GOP and some pundits were insisting.

I will say, however, that I'm not sure Casey knew which way the race would go. If he did, he wasn't very excited about it. One of my crews talked with him after he voted, and Casey said, "I've been really privileged to have another term in the United States Senate. I've been privileged to serve in three public offices, and no matter what happens today, I've been pretty fortunate." Even for the mild-mannered Casey, that statement seemed kind of defeatist.

A couple other races to note. Long-time state rep. Phyllis Mundy, a Democrat from Luzerne County's West Side, fought off a challenge from young Republican Aaron Kaufer and claimed a 12-point victory. Kaufer had some financial backing - I received several mailings from him - but, to me, it seemed as though a lot of what he was criticizing Mundy for was old news such as the infamous midnight pay raise from six or seven years ago. Mundy has a reputation for sticking up for the elderly and for approaching the natural gas industry with caution. Those issues - and a Democratic voter edge in Luzerne County - made Kaufer's fight a tough one to win.

In another part of Luzerne County, Rep. Tarah Toohil, a Republican from the Hazleton area, won another term in the state house. She had a 2-1 edge in votes over her opponent, Ransom Young. The margin of victory is impressive given that Toohil faced some negative advertising featuring compromising pictures of her taken several years ago. In this case, the dirty tricks (which her opponent disavowed) did not work at all.

And, finally, Kathleen Kane from the Scranton area became the first Democrat and the first woman to be elected Pennsylvania Attorney General. Kane won by about 14 points over Cumberland County DA David Freed. Freed has close ties to the Attorney General's office and was apparently Gov. Corbett's candidate of choice. Kane got some publicity over the past year as a commentator on the Jerry Sandusky case and she promised to be an independent prosecutor. One of the reason's for Corbett's sagging favorability is that many people feel he could have done more when he was Attorney General to stop Sandusky. As far as I know, Freed never had any involvement in the case, but being associated with Corbett may have hurt his cause more than helped it.

At any rate, it's all over. Now I have six months to rest up before the May primary.
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