Good morning.

This week looks to be dominated by voter ID and Romney-Ryan. Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson is set to release his decision on the ID bill sometime this week, and legal/voting experts around the country (and in the Dept of Justice) will be watching intently. From Karen Langley:

Some election law experts around the country are watching existing and potential challenges to the Pennsylvania law, staying aprised of the state's acknowledgement that it knows of no cases of in-person voter fraud and discussing through email details of the Department of Justice letter. Some said that even if the Justice Department does object to the law under the Voting Rights Act, it is highly unlikely to do so before the November elections, instead watching for the conclusion of a challenge in state court. The judge in that case has said he expects to rule in the coming week.

A project of college journalism students across the country and based at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University looked for documented evidence of election-day voter fraud nationwide and found it to be "virtually nonexistent":

A new nationwide analysis of more than 2,000 cases of alleged election fraud over the past dozen years shows that in-person voter impersonation on Election Day, which has prompted 37 state legislatures to enact or consider tougher voter ID laws, was virtually nonexistent.

The analysis of 2,068 reported fraud cases by News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found 10 cases of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000.

With 146 million registered voters in the United States, those represent about one for every 15 million prospective voters.

The News21 report is based on a national public-records search in which reporters sent thousands of requests to elections officers in all 50 states, asking for every case of alleged fraudulent activity -- including registration fraud; absentee-ballot fraud; vote buying; false election counts; campaign fraud; the casting of ballots by ineligible voters, such as felons and noncitizens; double voting; and voter impersonation.

Tom Infield at the Inquirer profiled Judge Simpson, a Democrat turned Republican. Clergy in Philly rallied against the voter ID bill last night.

Next up we'll do a roundup of Paul Ryan VP reactions.

To repeat, the pro-Obama SuperPAC ad where a laid-off steelworker links his wife's death to Mitt Romney's former equity firm Bain Capital still hasn't been broadcast in commercial time in Pennsylvania or anywhere else. But people are still watching it online, many of them here in Pa.

From the NYT:

Bill Burton, one of the founders of Priorities USA Action, acknowledged that the ad had indeed never been broadcast. But all that free media attention has helped it chalk up nearly half-a-million views online, according to YouTube.

More important for Mr. Burton and his super PAC, however, may be where the ad is being watched. Of the top five states where people are watching the ad, one is California — often in the top because of the size of the state. A reliably Democratic state in presidential elections, California is not a focus of either the Romney or Obama campaign.

But the other four are: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

According to Mr. Burton, who said the ad will eventually run on television, it has been watched by 48,979 people in Florida; 28,473 people in Pennsylvania; 23,739 people in Ohio and 22,887 people in Virginia.

All eyes will be on Commonwealth Court Judge Robert Simpson starting Monday as the state awaits his decision on the voter ID challenge sometime during the week. Til then . . .

Atlantic Cities studies the unique voter ID problems facing Philadelphia, where transit-riding elderly voters have little in common with Republicans or anybody else in much more rural parts of the state:

Herein lies the unique quandary in Philadelphia. It is a large, left-leaning city, with the public transportation system of an old Northeastern metro area built in the era before cars. But it happens, right now, to be located in a state with a Republican-controlled legislature. There are plenty of older cities in America where large numbers of people might not have driver's licenses. But most of those cities, as Gaskins points out, are in solidly blue states where it's highly unlikely that voter ID laws would pass in the first place. This is also true of places like Chicago, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Look, instead, at the nine other states that the Brennan Center studied: Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The Northeastern States (Rhode Island and New Hampshire) don't have major cities on the scale of Philadelphia, and they both have high driver's license penetration. And the states outside of the Northeast (particularly Sun Belt states like Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas) are home to new, auto-oriented cities where it's much harder to get by without a car.

Philadelphia happens to sit at the crux of these unusual demographics, as a Democratic city where you don't need a car in a Republican state (for now). Of course, to further heighten the stakes, it's also in a political battleground for 2012. These dynamics don't just play out between Philadelphia and the rest of the state, but between Philadelphia proper and its suburbs.

We already knew Democratic PA18 congressional candidate Larry Maggi of Washington County is on the state's no-ID list. In looking further into it the Observer-Reporter notes even the county's election director, Larry Spahr, is on the list for having a stray middle initial.

The Post-Gazette and Pittsburgh Press have been covering politics for many many many years, and so have their photographers. The P-G's main conference room at the offices here on the Boulevard of the Allies is filled with iconic Pittsburgh images, and one wall pairs Andy Warhol with legendary Pittsburgh Mayor David Lawrence.

The PG's Mila Sanina and Steve Mellon, with assistance from intern Liz Bloom -- have launched a new archival site called The Digs and it currently has three political shots on its Tumblr homepage. One, with audio from P-G editor David Shribman, details a visit from JFK in October 1962, just a few days before the Cuban missle crisis (and following a parade route Nikita Khrushchev took on an earlier trip to the city). The two others are below:

Sophie Masloff

July 2, 1989: Pittsburgh Mayor Sophie Masloff waves goodbye to residents of the Garfield Senior High Rise after hearing tenant complaints. Ms. Masloff brought a unique sense of style to the mayor's office when she ascended to the post in 1988. Who couldn't love a grandmotherly politician who proudly spoke "Pittsburghese" in a voice that sometimes morphed into a hair-raising screech (remember her imitation of Mike Lange's "Scratch my back with a hacksaw" during a 1992 Pens rally?) and once mistakenly referred to the legendary rock musician Bruce Springsteen as "Bruce Bedsprings?"

For all her folksy, unpolished charm, though, Ms. Masloff was a determined civic leader. She was elected to city council in a 1976 special election, and was reelected three times. When the city's popular mayor, Richard Caligiuri, died in 1988, Ms. Masloff was 70 years old and serving as council president — a post that put her in line to assume the city's top office. Ms. Masloff became Pittsburgh's first female and first Jewish mayor. She was elected to a full term in 1989 but four years later decided against seeking another term and retired to her home in Squirrel Hill.

(Photo by Melissa Farlow, Pittsburgh Press)

— Steve Mellon

John Heinz, Ronald Reagan

Oct. 31, 1980: Ronald Reagan and his campaign strategists identified Pennsylvania — particularly its western half — "as a determinant of whether Reagan ends up the hero or the anti-hero of the 1980 presidential campaign." On Oct. 31, four days before the election, then-California Gov. Reagan brought his campaign against incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter to Pittsburgh.

On that day, Reagan met with labor leaders in the William Penn Hotel and spoke at a Station Square rally on the South Side. Reagan was accompanied by Sens. John Heinz and Richard Schweiker. (Schweiker later served as Secretary of Health and Human Services in Reagan's administration).

The Post-Gazette wrote about the rally: "Upon entering the Grand Concourse and clutching the hands of Sens. Schweiker and Heinz, arms upraised in anticipation of victory, the 69-year-old candidate looked understandably tired. He seemed to take no notice of the sumptuously refurbished P&LE Railroad station, despite the explanatory pointings and whisperings of Heinz."

On Nov. 4, 1980, Ronald Reagan won the presidential election in a landslide.

(Photo by James Klingensmith, Post-Gazette)

— Mila Sanina

Bob Casey launched a new negative ad about Republican challenger Tom Smith today (the first largely negative spot of Pa's general election US Senate campaign), making one wonder if he's worried about the challenge from the first-time politico or if it's just a sign of the ultra-negative times.

Smith's first ad of the fall campaign began with a few seconds hitting Casey's "failed record" on employment but, like most initial spots, was a mostly positive biographical ad.

Casey, of Scranton, is duking it out early in the Pittsburgh market, which is more or less home to Smith, a former Democrat and coal company owner from Armstrong County. The Casey ad builds on his first spot,  which distanced him from the Obama administration on domestic steel for military uses, this time hitting Smith's free-market policies: "My opponent and I just disagree. The one-sided trade deals he supports aren't competition. Tom Smith backs laws that send our jobs to Asia, Central America, South America -- everywhere but here," Casey says in the ad.

Smith's campaign manager Jim Conroy responded:

Bob Casey's latest disingenuous attack is further evidence of a race that is growing more competitive, sooner than many predicted. Unfortunately for Senator Casey, this election will be about jobs – and in November voters will have a clear choice between Tom Smith, a small businessperson and proven job creator versus Senator Casey, an ineffective career politician whose policies have led to more than 40 months of unemployment greater than eight percent.

Said Casey spokesman Larry Smar:

This election will be about jobs. On one side is Bob Casey's long record of fighting for Pennsylvania jobs and fighting against unfair trade. On the other is Tea Party Tom Smith's support for policies that will send Pennsylvania jobs overseas. Tom Smith supports the NAFTA-style trade agreements that Bob Casey fought against and Smith opposes bipartisan legislation that Bob Casey helped pass to crack down on China's currency manipulation that allows it to cheat.


Get PG politics coverage by e-mail!

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner