McCain Stumbles Into Cities; Obama’s Got One Foot In South Dakota And One In Miami
There were two developments late this week in the presidential campaign that addressed urban issues.
First, Senator McCain seems to have mentioned cities for one of the first times throughout his campaign. I’ve not seen the full transcript or video, but Dante Chinni at the The Christian Science Monitor picked this up from Senator McCain’s town hall meeting in Philadelphia on Wednesday:
Later, McCain expressed sympathy when he was asked a question on inner-city crime, but then he gave a long, winding answer that touched on the international reach of gangs and drugs and the need to seal the borders.
This might be a stumbling and unfortunate start to Senator McCain’s articulation of an urban agenda, but the full article fleshes out why Senator McCain might continue to ignore urban issues:
But big industrial cities like Philadelphia (places that fall into the “Industrial Metropolis” category [see here for the CSM’s definition of this category]) are the hardest for Republican candidates to win. In 2000, then-Vice President Al Gore won 67 percent of the vote from these 24 counties. Four years later, Sen. John Kerry took 67 percent of the vote in these same locales.
Although I’ve chided Senator McCain in recent days for not addressing city concerns, the electoral playing field is admittedly tilted (or slanted) against him in this regard.
Yet, all one has to do is expand the notion of “urban areas” to include suburbs or, as the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program quite convincingly argues, even more broadly to metropolitan areas that encompass core urban areas and the counties with which they interact closely, to come up with a logic by which Senator McCain can still address “cities” without preaching to a choir that simply won’t vote for him. Though suburbs do seem to be trending away from their classical Republican affiliation (see, for example, Philadelphia’s suburbs), they are still up-for-grabs for Senator McCain. The Arizona senator could very easily tout the potential benefits of metropolitan living: encouraging suburbs to act, if not look, more like cities; facilitating rail transit between major cities and smaller cities; or even encouraging greater coherence in home energy efficiency by creating federal standards. (Oh, wait a second, Senator McCain considers Amtrak, like everything else, to be pork. Maybe he can’t support the second policy.)
Slay said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he believes Obama, like Clinton, to be keenly aware of what the nation’s urban areas need to prosper. That’s the main reason why he gets involved at all in national politics, Slay added.
This sentiment will be voiced repeatedly by mayors from across the country at their annual meeting in Miami beginning a week from tomorrow. Conference of Mayors President Douglas Palmer of Trenton, and other Conference leaders, have been stressing a renewed federal-urban partnership. It will be interesting to hear what type of language Senator Obama chooses to use – and how far he pushes urban-versus-rural issues – in his characterization of this partnership when he addresses the group on June 21st. Indeed, just today, Senator Obama released a campaign ad in which former Senator Tom Daschle says that “[Barack Obama] has an understanding of America, rural and urban alike.”