NEW POST: With just days to go in the mayoral race, Sam says the new front-runner has it sewn up.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Winners and Losers — Part 2
Yesterday’s Keystone Poll reinforced the topsy-turvy nature of Philadelphia politics. It also established Michael Nutter as that “little engine that could,” not to mention the guy most likely to lead this city for the next eight years. Finally, it provided the first evidence in a long time that Philadelphia voters, often gullible and easily fooled in the past, have cleared away the clutter and made a decision that bodes well for the city’s best opportunity to stop dreaming about its potential and start realizing it.
Though there are still potholes to be navigated, the utterly flawless Nutter campaign will find that navigation relatively easy. Already establishment pols and ward leaders have made their way, quietly, into Nutter’s clutches. The word on the street is that Nutter won’t have the field necessary to bring out his vote. Don’t be ridiculous: Nutter has plenty of money for Election Day, and unlike in the general election, he doesn’t need to field troops in every one of the city’s 1,600-plus divisions. He will be armed and dangerous next Tuesday. Check the bulges in the pockets of Nutter street workers — when stopped and frisked, you’ll find lots of money and sample ballots.
And speaking of stop-and-frisk, the Fattah-Knox alliance to racially profile Nutter through leaflets and other under-the-radar pot-stirring closes out the long-term strategy Fattah hatched months ago to run on wedge issues (subliminally racially targeted) like anti-poverty initiatives, selling the airport, imposing a tariff to drive into Center City. Fattah never got it. His constituency never believed that his program would work or could be financed. They remembered the war on poverty. It will get ugly on the street, just like it did at the NBC debate, but it won’t work.
For Knox, what went up has now gone down. Knox’s weaknesses as a future mayor were fully exposed and the public figured out that he just wasn’t the guy for the job. Damned good decision in my view.
I’m calling it. It’s over. That lady I referred to in my last entry has her vocal chords fully tuned. I don’t believe this will be close. Nutter will win with at least 38 percent of the vote, possibly 40 percent. He will also sweep into City Council at least four if not six new members. Maria Quinonez Sanchez and Matt McClure will be elected as District Councilpersons. Derek Green will win an at-Large Council. I suspect young Bill Green will also win, but Marc Stier could join him. Andy Toy has a shot.
As with any campaign, there will also be major losers. Undeservedly, this will be one of Dwight Evans’s worst moments. He has been nothing short of phenomenal in the State House. He just doesn’t connect with voters on the large stage, but he has been the most consistently courageous and innovative politician the city has seen for more than a decade.
Bob Brady simply made a mistake. He never should have entered this race. His political future is on the descent. It will come swiftly, but Mayor Nutter will need to wrestle control of the party apparatus away from Brady.
Chaka Fattah will go back to Congress. He could try to become effective there, but my guess is that his heart won’t be in it. He isn’t vulnerable to being defeated, but nor is he likely to be heard from again.
Jon Saidel made the dumbest move I’ve ever seen in Philadelphia politics. He let his so-called friends manipulate him off the stage. He certainly he would have been in this race, and could have won it. Never fold your cards before the wagers are placed. Saidel’s political prospects are now quite dim.
Tom Knox, we hardly knew you. Now we never will. See ya.
Among the best aspects of the losing side are the ledgers are the dismal futures (politically) of John Dougherty and Jannie Blackwell. Ms. Blackwell’s continuing naked grab for power is dead on arrival. Dougherty will not be chair of the Democratic Party. His plan to install his brother as the next district attorney faces long odds.
But nobody gets clipped more in this election than the sitting mayor of Philadelphia – John Street. Not only will he be seated onstage at Michael Nutter’s inauguration, but his prospects for a congressional seat are over. As the ultimate slap in the face, after months of trials and convictions, his Philadelphia will actually be under the leadership of a true reformer. Having a great day?
Here’s to the losers.
And here’s to the biggest winners … the people of Philadelphia. I always had an abiding faith that you would see your way to electing someone who would dismantle the century-old adage that our city is “corrupt and contented.” That is why I ran myself and why I gave up so much to take on what were surely uphill battles. Obviously, I thought you would elect me. Politics is very unpredictable, but the people make the decisions. Michael Nutter said in the first minute of his editorial board interview at the Inquirer that after his term was finished, he wanted to make sure that those words were never again used to characterize Philadelphia. Now we’ve all got to work with him to make sure he achieves that goal.
Tuesday, May 8, 2007
Winners and Losers — Part 1
If you don’t have a scorecard, you’ll probably find the 2007 Philadelphia mayoral race just a tad confusing.
When it started, Chaka Fattah was the prohibitive favorite. He had name recognition, a national platform, a message that was narrowly targeted to the poorest of Philadelphia and focused on lifting its children, a marquee media advisor in David Axelrod (he of two successful Street for Mayor campaigns and now the key media advisor to Barack Obama) and the backing of Ed Rendell’s top political fund-raisers and general gurus (Herb Vederman, Alan Kessler, Mark Aronchick and others). The race was Chaka’s to lose.
Then Bob Brady entered. His best friend, Jon Saidel, was the guy everyone thought could challenge Fattah and, if the demographics worked, might even slip in. But Brady must have felt that neither his congressional colleague nor his buddy Saidel were up to the job, so he entered. With the apparatus of the Democratic machine at his disposal, Brady looked like a guy who could/would win. The he started to campaign and the floor fell in.
Tom Knox had other ideas and a better understanding of how new campaign finance laws would create hardships for the established candidates. Plus he had that other thing — enormous wealth — which, to the surprise of many, he actually decided to spend on pursuing his mayoral aspirations. Within 90 days, Knox had the lead and a seemingly clear path to victory. But a funny thing happened on the way to his inauguration: Michael Nutter.
Adopting the role of the tortoise and running a flawless and disciplined campaign, Nutter gradually — oh so gradually — hauled himself into the commanding position in this race. His message as the only true reformer in the field worked as Knox fell victim to news stories, Brady attacks, the 527 saga and editorials in the major press. As I said last week, Philadelphia Democrats loved Knox’s message. But they fell out of love with the messenger. Nutter’s media, which first established him as the “anti-Street,” then as the adoring father of a wonderfully lovable daughter, then as the guy who can win — all directed by Neil Oxman and Doc Sweitzer — has set him up to seal the deal. His a real reformer. He’s real likable. He can get elected. His performances at the Inquirer editorial board, on the televised joint appearances, and with 10 days of issue-oriented newspaper print ads have effectively changed the landscape of this race.
But no campaign as complex and dynamic as this one will be over until the fat lady (pardon the lack of P.C.-ness) sings. And she hasn’t started tuning up yet.
Fattah needs a ferocious finish or he will be spending most of the rest of his political career in Congress. It’s hard to see a path to victory, based on all that has gone on before, but it’s not out of the question. Brady and Dwight Evans are out of it, but how hard they work to move voters in the waning days could influence the outcome. Will Knox sit by and watch Nutter take it to him, or does he have something up his sleeve? Will the presence of so much street money prove to be what puts Knox over the top, or will a lot of folks take his money and run? And what can Nutter do to retain the extraordinary momentum created in the past two weeks? How can he put together the field operation needed to combat the forces at work to defeat reform in the one place where those forces are so entrenched — the machinery of Philadelphia elections?
Okay, I admit it: I was a frequent critic of this race and its key players. But they’ve made a believer of me. Philadelphia is getting an election it so richly deserves and so badly needed. The choices and the stakes of the election, both of which seemed so blurred just two weeks ago, are now abundantly clear.
There will be winners in seven days. While it isn’t entirely clear yet who they all will be, I’m hoping that the people of Philadelphia are among them.