Mark Thompson uses some terribly placed billboards outside Philly to make a larger point about the GOP’s insularity:
The billboard, which states “Obama supports gay marriage and abortion. Do you? Vote Republican,” is one of at least two identical such ads placed by the Republican Party on I-95 north of Philadelphia. This particular stretch of road is perhaps amongst the most trafficked stretches of road in the country, and certainly in the Northeast, meaning that any billboard is going to catch well in excess of 100,000 eyeballs a day. Many, perhaps even most, of those eyeballs belong to suburban Philadelphia voters from places like Bucks and Montgomery counties, which just so happen to be about the most important swing districts in the entire state, and are home to about 10 percent of the state’s total electorate. Combined, they have roughly the same amount of population as the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia itself., and more than double the population of all of the Republican Central Pennsylvania stronghold.
Simply put, Republicans cannot win, or even really compete, in Pennsylvania without winning in Bucks and Montgomery counties. In other words, any political billboards on I-95 just north of Philadelphia are presumptively aimed entirely at folks from Montgomery and Bucks counties. These folks are also, on average, the classic fiscally conservative, socially liberal Northeastern moderates of lore. They are the reason why, even before President Obama’s announcement flipped African-American sentiment on gay marriage (which was always weakly held anyhow) in Philadelphia, gay marriage may have already had the support of 50 percent of the state’s voters; these counties are also noticeably more pro-choice than the rest of the state.
In effect, the above billboards, despite their imperative to “Vote Republican” are about as effective an ad as one can imagine…. for President Obama. The ads tell a critical group of swing voters that, by and large, are fairly likely to answer the question “do you?” in the affirmative that President Obama agrees with them on the issue.
As importantly, in a year where the economy is as terrible as it currently is, this ad ensures that the national Republican Party is reaching out at least twice a day to this group of voters to tell them that gay marriage is the issue at the core of this election, the issue that most defines President Obama’s record. Not taxes. Not jobs. Hell, not even health care. Indeed, not anything that actively and tangibly harms or threatens to actively and tangibly harm these voters. But gay marriage and abortion? The message this billboard sends, even to those in the area who are ambivalent on gay marriage and abortion, is “even if you like what we have to say on other issues, we’re not actually very interested in the issues that matter to you.”
And so, nationally, it would seem, the Republican Party* remains fairly uninterested in what actually matters to voters outside of the party’s rural strongholds. Instead, it seems to just assume that their problem is merely that people haven’t heard their message, rather than recognizing that it’s a message people outside of those rural strongholds just aren’t buying.
I’ve seen the ads in question and they really do paint the party in the worst light imaginable considering the target audience.