Romney talks economy near Y'town

Published by James O'Toole on .

Mitt Romney touted his expertise on jobs and the economy as he courted Mahoning valley voters hours before the polls were to open here and in nine other states offering the by far largest collective cache of delegates so far in the GOP nomination battle.

"My message to the Mahoning valley is pretty simple. I want to bring good jobs back here ... My experience in the economy came by actually living in the economy,'' Mr. Romney said, at a town hall meeting in a fabricating plant outside Youngstown."In business, if you're not a fiscal conservative, if you don't balance your budget you're out of business.''

In a reference to the relatively greater emphasis on social issues by his chief rival, former Sen. Rick Santorum, he said, "There are other folks in this campaign talking about a lot of other things and that's fine, but me me [the issues are] more jobs, less spending, smaller government.

Mr. Romney was introduced by Sen. Rob Portman, who symbolized the establishment support he has won here in a state where he has been clawing back in the polls since his victories in Arizona and Michigan last week. As he stood in front of a giant auto crushing machine, Mr. Romney pointed to other recent endorsements from Republicans in Super Tuesday states, including Virginia's Rep. Eric Cantor, and Oklahoma's Sen. Tom Coburn.

Mr. Romney spent much of his time assailing the Obama administration's economic and energy policies, never mentioning the names of his GOP opponents..

One questioner made a reference to Mr. Romney's statement last week that he wouldn't "set my hair on fire'' to draw attention to himself.

"Someone suggested there's enough oil in my hair that it would burn for days,'' he noted, in a novel twist on the search of alternative energy supplies.

At one point, the sometimes rhetorically challenged candidate found himself scrambling to rehabilitate his introduction of his wife, Ann as "the heavyweight champion of my life.''

"That didn't come out right. She is a fighter, that's what I meant.'


Murphy, Readshaw enter battlefield

Published by Tim McNulty on .

The testy national debate on contraception and abortion -- from Rush Limbaugh's dismissal of a female activist as a "slut" to Bob Casey's break with Democratic leaders on a vote last week -- is coming home to roost, with a vengeance, in Western Pennsylvania.

US Rep Tim Murphy has been making the rounds on conservative talk shows to discuss his confrontation with US Health Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Capitol Hill last week, which went from a talk about health care budgeting to abortifacients and Jesus and the Apostles. Closer to home, state Rep. Harry Readshaw, D-Carrick, is getting noticed around Grant Street for sending a curious, handwritten response to a female constituent who criticized a bill he co-sponsored requiring ultrasounds before abortions.

First to Murphy, an Upper St. Clair Republican who faces a challenge on his right this spring. Sebelius spoke before the House Energy and Commerce committee to explain the Obama administration's requirement that employers (with religious exceptions) must provide birth control coverage to employees. Murphy, a doctor, then pressed her on the science versus religion of whether morning after pills end pregnancies.

From Think Progress:

SEBELIUS: It is a contraceptive drug, not an abortifacient... It does not interfere with a pregnancy. If the morning pill were taken, and a female were pregnant, the pregnancy is not interrupted. That's the definition of abortifation.

MURPHY: Ma'm that is your interpretation, and I appreciate that's your interpretation.

SEBELIUS: That's what the scientists and doctors...

MURPHY: We're not talking about scientists. Ma'm we're not talking about scientists here, we're talking about religious belief. Ma'm, I'm asking you about a religious belief. In a religious belief, that is a violation of a religious belief.

Murphy goes on later to say "You're setting up a rule that not even Jesus and his apostles could adhere to. Jesus was Jewish. He collected other Jewish people, tax collectors, sinners, Mary Magdelene and others. Therefore [you're] saying, you know what, because you're not bringing all Christians into this fold you cannot do this."

On Fox (and his Facebook page) Murphy's main charge is the Obama administration pays for health care coverage via contraception. From his appearance on America's Newsroom:

MURPHY: When Secretary Sebelius said that basically pregnancy is an expense, that means that by not having to pay for prenatal care and not having to pay for labor and delivery or the pediatric costs of raising a child, they figured they could save a lot of money. And it really baffled me how we were going to expect to pay for health care by not having babies. I thought that was one of the points of providing health care for women. And quite frankly it doesn't make sense financially.

On to Readshaw. He's a sponsor of HB 1077, aka the Women's Right To Know Act, aka Pennsylvania's version of the Virginia ultrasound bill. It is common for PA Democrats to be anti-abortion (see: Casey, or Readshaw's neighbor Dan Deasy) but not to defend himself the way he did to a liberal South Hills blogger named Amadi. He sent her a package containing a letter responding to her complaints about the bill, along with other data on her voting history, home address and ethnicity.

In her email to Readshaw she had said women "have independent intellect" and didn't need the government requiring them to get ultrasounds or other tests. To that he replied:

Readshaw letter

("I know this message will fall on deaf ears but….. I do not choose to debate “intellect” vs. morals. As I believe morals should overwhelmingly be the favorite.")

And so on and so on. The full letter and the blogger's impressions to it are here.


Daily Santorum: It ain't over

Published by Tim McNulty on .

New Yorker cover

A little over a month ago -- yes, just a month ago -- the pre-mortems were rolling in for the floundering Rick Santorum campaign in Florida. "Tired and broke, Santorum heads home to do taxes," went one AP story.

It's a similar feeling today, but with a more certain sense that if Romney rolls to a victory in Ohio after prevailing in Michigan -- after Santorum led the polls in both states -- that it really will be over. (Santorum had lost leads in Ohio and Tennessee in most of the latest polling, though he was a close second to Romney in both. Rasmussen had him up by 4 in Tenn., though.)

The Santorum camp knows that too, so is sending the message that he's really in it for the long haul -- he has events scheduled through next Monday in Biloxi and is buying air time in Alabama on Wednesday. The GOP choice for president "may end up at the convention," he insisted over the weekend.

They're also struggling (after failing) to keep the candidate on message: after all the family-values/Satan stuff crumbled the Michigan cookie, the campaign committed to refocusing on his blue-collar economic message, only to see his comments about college and Obama's snobbery get all the headlines.

As usual, the Onion summed up the truth best with satire:

WASHINGTON—As Rick Santorum has emerged to become Mitt Romney's leading opponent for the Republican presidential nomination, the American electorate said Monday it had slowly begun to realize that the former Pennsylvania senator sincerely believes every deranged word that exits his mouth.

Uneasy voters told reporters it was becoming more and more evident that comments from Santorum defending sodomy laws as acceptable restrictions on "wants and passions" and characterizing pregnancy occurring through rape as a "gift" from God were not politically calculated but were, in fact, spoken out of sincere, startling conviction.

"I honestly thought he was just playing up to the far-right voters, because that's what Republicans are supposed to do in the primaries," said Grand Rapids, MI resident Dan Banks, who explained he had dismissed as manipulative campaign rhetoric Santorum's assertion that President Obama would send Christians to the guillotine. "But now it's dawning on me that this guy means it, all of it. Every single thing he says is an accurate depiction of how he sees the world."

Even his wife Karen is worried about the messaging, and sat down with Politico to give her first print interview of the campaign:

The day after the Michigan primary, Karen scolded her husband for answering too many questions on the stump about birth control, rather than focusing on how, at that point, he had picked up as many delegates as Mitt Romney.

“My advice to him was stop answering the question,” she said. “Tell ‘em, ‘I’m not going to answer this question, let me tell you what I know about national security. I know a lot about national security.’”

Schedule below:


Allegheny AFL-CIO backs Critz

Published by Laura Olson on .

Already mired in his ballot petition mess, U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire failed to earn an endorsement recommendation from the Allegheny County Labor Council, which announced this afternoon that the council's political arm chose U.S. Rep. Mark Critz in the 12th District race.

“The reach and resources of the local labor community make the Labor Council’s blessing a coveted win for any serious candidate competing in its jurisdiction and I am honored to have it,” said Critz in the labor group's statement.

With a two-thirds vote required of the 39 voting members present at Friday's endorsement session, the labor member also abstained from backing a candidate in the 18th congressional race. 

Further down ballot, Republican state Rep. Mark Mustio earned their backing to replace state Sen. John Pippy, though Mark Scappe, a Democrat and former Moon school board member, was their pick for Mustio's current state House seat.

Another eyebrow-raiser: the labor council chose Ed Gainey over incumbent state Rep. Joe Preston in the rematch for his 24th District seat.

The full list of recommendations is after the jump ...


Repubs rally at Keystone Dinner

Published by Laura Olson on .


It hasn't been an easy primary season yet for Pennsylvania Republicans, who have spent the past month scrambling to readjust to the state Supreme Court's legislative district ruling.

But at the airport's Hyatt Regency Hotel this evening, a half-dozen candidates and party leaders rallied 100 or so of western Pennsylvania's party faithful for the primary battles that are less than two months away from balloting.

Ticking off a list of last year's victories -- including a state budget that spends less than the year before, tort and welfare reforms, and "pro-life" legislation regarding regulation of abortion facilities -- House Majority Leader Mike Turzai declared that Steeler Country will be "vital" to winning back the White House.

"Republicans are prepared to fiscally govern the state and the nation," said Turzai, during the inaugural Keystone Dinner's "whistlestop" speech portion.

Not all the talk was focused on unity -- it is, after all, primary season. Both incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy and his 18th District challenger, Evan Feinberg, addressed the crowd. Feinberg spoke of the "watching our liberties slowly slide away" and slammed the Occupy Wall Street movement as the wrong direction for the country, before turning his sights on Murphy.

"Congressman Murphy is not the solution for our country's problems," Feinberg said. "He's been part of the problem, not the solution."

Murphy, who arrived shortly after his challenger's remarks, said he has been fighting against Washington problems. He touted his experience as an important factor, referencing his recent efforts toward blocking the planned closing of the Air Force's nearby 911th Airlift Wing. 

"You know me, you know my family, you know the things I've done," Murphy said. "I'm here to do the best that I can for the region."