Swing-State Sashay

PITTSBURGH -- Rolling through Ohio, and now in Pennsylvania, I've got swing states on my mind -- and not only because of the acrobats who greeted us in Pittsburgh, in a literal circus-like atmosphere at the train station.

For better or worse, it's states like these -- and a small handful of others -- that will determine this election.

The old thinking has been that if you win two out of the three biggest battlegrounds -- Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida -- you become president. It worked for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004, and it very well could work again in 2008.

Which brings me to the economy: On economic grounds, there is no real reason that Sen. Barack Obama wouldn't dominate both Ohio and Pennsylvania. Both states have been battered under the Bush years, and would seem to be open to the Obama-Biden message on both policy and political grounds.

Donald Garrett, a 75-year-old Pittsburgh resident who greeted the train's arrival Wednesday afternoon, said he can't understand why his home state wouldn't go strongly for Obama.

But then again, he has a theory.

"I don't want to play the race card, but that is going to be an issue in the state of Pennsylvania -- definitely," said Garrett, who is black. "I was born here. I've experienced the attitudes, and have fought the issues, as an African-American male. I know the feelings and the attitudes that exist here. I'm speaking from experience."

It reminded me of the comments from Pennsylvania's Democratic governor, Ed Rendell, from back in February: "You've got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate."

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