Coming from Mayor Daley's Chicago, Barack Obama's promise to transcend the "old politics" has always been viewed with skepticism by Democratic Party bosses.
During Pennsylvania's hard-fought Democratic primary in March, Mr. Obama said: "We're not going to pay for votes, or pay for turnout." He was referring to the practice of handing out "street money" -- i.e. cash paid to partisan workers to get out the vote. Mr. Obama wound up losing Pennsylvania badly, with many party leaders blaming his failure to provide the traditional lubrication.
One ward leader told me he expected Mr. Obama would change his tune in November if he became the party's nominee.Indeed he has. The Philadelphia Daily News quotes Congressman Bob Brady, chairman of the city's Democratic Party, as saying street money is now back in vogue. "They [the Obama campaign] told me there are going to be resources here. That's what we do in Philadelphia; we pay people to work," Mr. Brady said.
Mr. Brady went on to say that by his calculations, Mr. Obama needs a massive Philadelphia win in order to carry the state's 21 electoral votes because he doesn't have the support in central and western Pennsylvania that Al Gore or John Kerry enjoyed. "I think we're going to need that because of the middle part of the state. McCain plays right in there," he said.
Of course, the massive size of Democratic margins in Philadelphia (often exceeding half a million votes) has regularly been a subject of controversy. A key state legislative victory by Democrats was thrown out by a federal judge a few years back due to massive vote fraud. The rolls of city voters have for years contained more registrations than the city contains people over 18, according to Census data. These excess registrations represent an open invitation to turn "street money" into phantom votes if a sufficient number of the living kind can't be drummed up.
For all the hype about his successful Internet campaign, it appears Mr. Obama has reluctantly decided that the "old politics" has it uses after all and must now be embraced.
-- John Fund,
writing in today's Wall Street Journal's POLITICAL DIARY ONLINE