Tom Fitzgerald is out with a piece where Republicans affiliated with Tom Corbett and Democrats affiliated with Allyson Schwartz’s primary opponents warn that Allyson Schwartz might be too liberal to beat Tom Corbett in 2014. The actual reasons mentioned are pretty scant. Aside from the rest of Pennsylvania’s general unfavorable view of
black people Philadelphia, the big issue seems to be that Schwartz helped found the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center:
The concern mentioned most often: Not only does Schwartz strongly support abortion rights, but before entering politics, she ran a Philadelphia women’s health clinic where abortions were performed […]
Schwartz helped found the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center, a now-closed women’s clinic, in 1975 and ran it through the end of 1988. It provided prenatal care, a birthing center, and other health services.
I appreciate that abortion is a tough issue for Democrats running in western PA, but I really have to doubt this issue will have nearly as much salience as Schwartz’s opponents hope, for four reasons:
1. Democrats who support abortion rights keep winning statewide elections. Barack Obama won huge and so did Kathleen Kane. Ed Rendell won two terms despite being pro-choice. Joe Sestak was an unapologetic supporter of abortion rights and he got 49% of the vote against Pat Toomey in 2010 – a bloodbath year for Democrats. Can somebody point to a recent election where a statewide Democrat was hurt by taking a pro-choice stance?
2. Reproductive health and privacy is a weakness, not a strength, for Tom Corbett. Is the median Pennsylvania voter’s opinion on these issues closer to Tom Corbett’s or Allyson Schwartz’s position? Clearly it’s Allyson Schwartz’s position. Look at Tom Corbett’s poll numbers with women. He’s been badly damaged ever since that first education-gutting budget, and he sealed the deal with the infamous “just close your eyes” comment defending the Republican plan for mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds. The idea that this is an issue Corbett will have some sort of advantage on is hilarious.
3. The areas that support abortion rights keep growing and the areas that oppose them keep shrinking. SEPA and the Pittsburgh metro regions will supply more of the votes than they did in 2010, than they did in 2006. It’s getting easier and easier for Democrats to win statewide without contesting anti-choice areas of the state.
4. The election’s not going to be about abortion. It’s just not. The number of issues more important and more immediate in people’s lives is huge. If Corbett tries to make the election about abortion, it’s not going to work. We’re all going to bang on him for trying to avoid talking about his horrible record – the massive education cuts, the giveaways to natural gas companies, his habit of accepting gifts from corporations, the botched Sandusky investigation, and on and on. Voters are going to want to hear about alternatives to Corbett’s recent record, not Schwartz’s early career.
If people want to say Schwartz is too liberal, they’re going to have to name some issues where she’s actually too liberal to get elected. Abortion isn’t going to cut it.
And I really can’t think of what those other issues would be, because in reality, Schwartz is probably too conservative to deserve the Democratic Party’s nomination. This is the part where the campaign hands laugh at me, but I’ll give them three good reasons why I don’t trust Allyson Schwartz:
1. She’s not with us on health care. The main disagreement between the Democratic Party and the Republican Party on health care is cutting health care spending by cutting providers’ prices vs. cutting health care spending by reducing benefits and access to treatment. Do we make the government insurance programs cheaper by paying less to doctors and hospitals, or do we make them cheaper by making them stingier to beneficiaries? Allyson Schwartz opposes doing anything that would cut health care providers’ prices, and that’s giving cover to the people who want to voucherize Medicare. This is a big problem since she’d implement Obamacare as Governor.
2. She’s not with us on consumer financial protection. Schwartz voted for George W. Bush’s odious 2005 bankruptcy reform bill. The bill was insanely pro-creditor, made it very difficult for regular people to get out of bad debts, and maybe worst of all, made it impossible to discharge private student loans in bankruptcy. As in, Sallie Mae can garnish your Social Security checks.
3. She’s Vice Chair of the corporatist New Democrat coalition. The New Dems exist to give bipartisan cover to Republicans when it’s time to water down regulation of banks, telecom companies, large retailers, and all the biggest rent-seekingest firms in America. They were a major force for watering down financial regulatory reform. I have no problem with Democrats who need to vote with Republicans when Republican positions are actually popular in their districts. But I dare anybody to find a post-financial crisis poll showing voters think DC’s gone too hard on the banks.
As I recall, one major complaint Democrats have about Tom Corbett is that his approach to growing jobs is to give huge incumbent businesses whatever they happen to be lobbying for at that point, taking their claims about the jobs impact of this tax cut or that regulatory change at face value. That’s how Allyson Schwartz has behaved in the House, and Democrats who are hoping for an alternative to the Do What the Biggest Businesses Want jobs strategy have little reason to expect a major change from Governor Schwartz.