Monday, October 11, 2004

Despite All The BC04 Yard Signs, Bush trails In PA. 


On the ground, literally, things are looking good for the president across the river. Bush/Cheney lawn signs are as numerous as pumpkins and fake spider-webs on the farmhouse lawns. Inside cozy, winterized homes, TVs have been flickering for months with incessant Bush propaganda. Through the end of September, the Bush campaign pumped 16,000 television spots costing $15 million into Pennsylvania, nearly as much as the combined Bush television buys in Michigan and Missouri. The campaign only spent more in two other states, Florida and Ohio. Bush advertising proliferates on rural Pennsylvania's roads too. At any time of year, billboards abound. These eyesores routinely provoke conservationists to litigate, but otherwise remain as much a part of the landscape as the ubiquitous Burma shave ads half a century ago. Right now the Bush signs are so numerous – I counted more than a half-dozen in a five mile stretch outside Honesdale, on the state's eastern edge – that the touring driver might believe Pennsylvania belongs to Bush. Other travelers report they sprout in similar profusion from the rocky slopes and forests for at least another hundred miles south, deep into the Lehigh Valley.

Their catchy one-liners, simple and to the point, are calculated to touch the flinty, faithful soul.

"Flip-Flops or Boots?" asks one.

"Remember: It's Your Money."

"One Nation Under God."…

…His handlers are too preoccupied with endgame now to notice that casually dissing people's intelligence didn't work this time. They didn't even bother to schedule any handshaking time, content to use the region as a CNN backdrop. Bush spent no time at all with residents and local news media. His plane touched down at the airport in Pittston Township at about 9:45 a.m. and was wheels-up by 11:30 a.m.

The event certainly didn't involve any undecided voters, either. Bush entered the Kirby Center through a rear door, avoiding demonstrators and supporters alike, and strode on stage before a hand-picked audience, loyalty-tested to cheer at the right lines.

We'll all know very soon whether billboards, TV ads, lawn signs and fake audiences can make up for W.'s deficiencies. But watching the leaves turn, and the chilling realities creeping into the northeastern Pennsylvania nights, I'm betting they won't.

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