Posts Tagged nation

Thomas J. Smith: An American Life


From the minutemen of the American Revolution to the settlers of the old West to the housewives who poured into the factories during World War II to the Tea party movement of recent years our nation began and thrives when ordinary Americans step up and do extraordinary things.

Since the beginning of our Republic the concept of a “citizen legislator” has been the ideal.  Our founding fathers realized that professional politicians are more concerned about their careers than “we the people” posed a threat to our liberty.  Four score and seven years later, President Abraham Lincoln eloquently called it a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Now special interests and professional politicians dominate both Washington, D.C. and Harrisburg while the interests of working families, small businesses and senior citizens take a back seat.  But there are those who are willing to leave the comfort of their private lives and fight to preserve, protect and defend the God-given rights upon which our nation was established.

Thomas J. Smith was one who has answered his nation’s call.

Tom Smith, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 67, was an American success story.  At the age of nineteen, when his father became ill, Tom decided to postpone college and run the family’s Armstrong County farm.  He mortgaged his existing property to purchase a coal mine and – by risking capital and his financial security – successfully expanded his business operations over a 20 year period eventually mining more than a million tons of coal per year and employing over 100 people.

Along the way, Tom and his wife Saundra had three biological children. Then, the Smith’s adopted a family of four children from Texas allowing the siblings to be raised together.

After selling his mining interests in 2010 and becoming alarmed over rapidly expanding federal intrusion into our lives, Tom was in the vanguard of the Tea party movement and helped to found the Indiana/Armstrong County Patriots.

But that level of activism was not enough for Tom Smith.  In 2012 he decided to run for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania.  The sitting governor and state GOP endorsed another candidate, but Tom persevered dealing the party a rare defeat and besting five other candidates to win the nomination.  Despite his best efforts, the headwinds against the GOP in Pennsylvania that November resulted in the re-election of the incumbent.

This is the point where most people give up.  But not Tom Smith.  He was only getting started.  Tom became involved in a wide range of state and national policy battles serving on the boards and financially contributing to a wide range of organizations fighting for individual liberty and personal freedom.

In the summer of 2015 Tom was again planning to enter the political fray as a candidate for congress when he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.  That cut short his political career, but Tom remained involved fighting for the issues about which he cared deeply until his final days.

Ronald Reagan once said that “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

Thomas J. Smith did his part to ensure that freedom endures for the next generation.  His life and career will continue to serve as both an example of what citizen activism should be and as an inspiration to the rest of us to step up and continue the cause which he has “thusfar so nobly advanced.”

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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Kingmaker? Pennsylvania’s Delegation Influential in a Brokered Convention


Pennsylvania’s presidential primary, held in late April after more than half of the other states have already voted, means residents of Penn’s Woods generally have little impact on the selection of the nominees of the two major political parties.  Legislation has been proposed to move the primary to an earlier date, however, it is unlikely to happen in time to take effect for 2016.

But, there is a scenario in which Pennsylvania’s delegation to next year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio could play a major role in the selection of the nominee.  That would be if the primary season fails to yield a candidate with a majority of delegate votes triggering a rare brokered convention.

In recent decades the quadrennial nominating conventions have been little more than stage managed coronations of the candidates who already had collected enough delegate votes through the primary and caucus process.  The last time a convention really mattered was in 1976 when incumbent President Gerald Ford arrived in Detroit still locked in a battle with Ronald Reagan for the nomination.  Ford prevailed, but was unable to shake off the after effects of the Watergate scandal and lost the General Election to Jimmy Carter.

Prospects for a brokered GOP convention in 2016 grow greater every week.  That’s the frequency with which candidates are entering the presidential contest with 15 or more candidates ultimately expected to compete.  A recent Quinnipiac University poll found five of those candidates – Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, and Mike Huckabee – all tied for the lead with 10% of the vote each.   It could be argued those candidates constitute a top tier, but clearly no one has taken command of the race.

It is, of course, still early in a climate where even one or two news cycles can completely alter the political landscape, but the Republican bench is so deep every one of the top five, and just about all of the others, can lay claim to a base constituency and make the argument that they are qualified to become the next president.  Few, however, can outline a plausible path to the nomination.

The winnowing process could still occur, especially if one candidate manages to win two out of three of the earliest contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and then go on to dominate the so-called Super Tuesday primaries.  But, 15 candidates with diverse geographic and ideological bases within the party presage a Balkanization of the vote and the allocation of delegates.

If the Republican Party arrives in Cleveland with no one candidate having a majority of votes, a quirk in Pennsylvania’s delegate rules could put the commonwealth’s delegation in a strong position to be the king-maker.  Unlike most other states, all of Pennsylvania’s delegates run uncommitted.  Republican delegates are elected by congressional district, with an additional group selected by the Republican State Committee.  Pennsylvania will have 71 delegate votes, making it the seventh largest delegation.  While candidates for delegate can express support for a particular presidential candidate, they are not legally bound to vote for that candidate at the convention.

This means Pennsylvania’s delegation will arrive on the shores of Lake Erie technically uncommitted to any of the candidates and free to wheel and deal with potential nominees.  Assuming any degree of unity among the delegation, Pennsylvania’s delegate votes could be enough to put a candidate over the top or at least provide major momentum in a brokered scenario.

It would take all the stars aligning for this to play out, but in a year where there are an unprecedented number of candidates participating in a long string of primaries and caucuses anything is possible.  If it does come down to a brokered convention Pennsylvania might once again become the Keystone State.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

Permission to reprint is granted provided author and affiliation are cited.

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It’s Debatable: Candidates’ debate performances have defined 2012 race


Presidential debates have a rich history of making – or breaking – candidates. It began with the very first such debate held in 1960 when John Kennedy’s confident, youthful appearance doomed a sweating Richard Nixon to defeat. The latest candidate to feel the sting of a poor debate performance is Rick Santorum.

Pennsylvania’s former U.S. Senator narrowly lost the Michigan primary to Mitt Romney after having held a double digit lead in several polls just two weeks ago. After winning a trifecta of states on February 7th, Santorum surged both nationally and in Michigan. All that stood between Rick Santorum and an embarrassing, perhaps campaign-ending, rout of Mitt Romney was one debate in Arizona.

That debate did not go well for Santorum. True, there was not one “gotcha” moment or a major gaffe, but Santorum allowed himself to be on the defensive, sank into Washington speak, and permitted Romney to paint him as the beltway insider. Meanwhile, the former Massachusetts governor appeared poised and confident, in command and on the attack. Most analysts agree Santorum regained his balance the second half of the debate, but the damage had been done.

Santorum’s poor performance in the Arizona debate followed what was perhaps his best debate performance, the final meeting of the candidates prior to January’s Florida primary. In that debate, it was Santorum who was on the attack, pinning Romney to the mat on Romneycare and emerging as the strongest personality on the stage. That performance helped fuel Santorum’s wins in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado.

There have been 20 debates among the Republican Presidential candidates this year and those forums have played an out-sized role in shaping and defining the race. Texas Governor Rick Perry entered the contest with a huge lead in the polls, but stumbled badly in his first debate performances, even suffering brain freeze while listing the three federal cabinet departments he would eliminate. Since those debates were his first exposure to a wide national audience, they created a bad image of Perry in the minds of voters; it was an image he was unable to overcome.

Conversely, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich owes the fact that he remains in the race to his superb debate performances. In the early debates Gingrich was the adult in the room, talking serious policy and keeping the focus on Barack Obama while the others bickered like children. In the weeks leading up to the South Carolina primary, which he won, Gingrich turned in perhaps his best debate performances greatly enhancing both his stature and his standing in the polls. Again, at the final debate in Arizona, Gingrich appeared the most presidential.

And then there is Mitt Romney. While the others have sprinted and stumbled, he has been the marathon man. Romney has never been the star of a debate, nor has he committed a campaign-defining gaffe. Reflective of his managerial personality, he has simply done what needed to be done – nothing more, nothing less. And it is that consistency throughout the debates that has allowed him to weather periodic surges by the other candidates.

Fortunately for Rick Santorum the primary calendar gave him time to recover from his poor performance in the Arizona debate. He was on the upswing when Michigan voters went to the polls, falling just short of inflicting a humiliating defeat on Romney. Given that Michigan is Romney’s state of birth, and his father was a popular governor there years ago, Romney should have stomped Santorum. That it took a self-inflicted wound by Santorum to give Romney an anemic three percent win illustrates the fact that the former Massachusetts governor still has not closed the deal with the vast majority of Republican primary voters.

The good news for Pennsylvania Republicans is that our state’s presidential primary will actually matter this year. Romney leads in delegates, but needs to end up with more than Santorum, Gingrich and Ron Paul combined. A treasure trove of delegates is at stake on April 24th, when both Keystone state voters and those in the state of New York go to the polls. It will be a pivotal day. Whether or not the nomination is decided that day is, well, debatable.

(Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute and host of the weekly Lincoln Radio Journal. His e-mail address is lhenry@lincolninstitute.org.)

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