As Goes Pittsburgh, So Goes … ?

Campaign Desk wondered what the political press would do with its time this week with both candidates off the trail and with reporters having already chewed the what-will-Reagan’s-death-mean-for-the-campaign angle to mush.

The Associated Press’s Jennifer C. Yates used the down time to belatedly weigh in on the thoroughly stale debate: Teresa Heinz Kerry, Muse or Menace?

Teresa’s an asset, AP declares right in the headline — “Kerry’s Asset in PA: His Wife, Her Name.” Then, in a pivot Campaign Desk can appreciate for its novelty, if not its accuracy, Yates borrows another favorite fallacy of political reporters, the “as goes X, so goes Y, and as Y goes, so goes the nation” assertion. Yates quotes Teresa: “’[Pittsburgh’s] my home,’ she says. And, some believe, a personal connection that will help her husband win Pennsylvania and the White House.”

Yates might have mustered enough evidence to support the idea that Heinz Kerry’s Pittsburgh connection could help her husband win Pittsburgh — an historically Democratic city. But as goes Pittsburgh, so goes Pennsylvania? And thus goes America? None of Yates’s various sources come close to backing up such a claim.

In fact, Elsie Hillman, a “prominent Pittsburgh Republican” and friend of Heinz Kerry tells Yates she doesn’t think that Heinz Kerry’s ties to Pittsburgh will “necessarily give Kerry an advantage” at all. Both Kerry and Bush, Hillman notes, have friends in Pittsburgh and it is “unclear how that will affect the election.” Yates then quotes a professor allowing that while Pennsylvania’s cities “are Democratic,” the race will be decided in the ‘burbs.

The closest Yates comes to supporting her premise is a quote from Pittsburgh’s (Democratic) mayor calling Heinz-Kerry “Pittsburgh’s patron saint” and saying that “anybody has a home advantage. George Bush will do well in Texas because he’s from Texas. I do believe that we’ll do better because Teresa is from Western Pennsylvania.”

No kidding.

Liz Cox Barrett

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.