Philadelphia is no place for lazy desk-sitters like me to get out there and cover a presidential campaign. For the most part, the White House hopefuls don't come within a $79 Southwest fare of the mid-Atlantic region's largest city -- at least not for the kind of large, electric-flag-waving rallies that we've seen in 2015-16 for the populist candidates like the GOP's Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side.
What gives? Mainly it's the calendar. Pennsylvania, which holds its presidential primary on April 26, and New Jersey, which votes on June 7, are about as far back on the primary schedule as you can get. A candidate who survives in the race that long will have plenty of time to campaign here in the spring, so why waste time in Pennsylvania or South Jersey now that they could be shaking hands in Iowa or New Hampshire? (Does anybody really know what time the Delaware primary is? Does anybody really care?)
This past fall, in reporting and writing my e-book The Bern Identity about Bernie Sanders' campaign, I looked for close-by events to save time and a few travel bucks. The closest rally was (and still is, to this day) Manassas, Va., some four, slapping-my-face-at-1 a.m.-in-the-car hours away. I also watched an undulating crowd of 15,000 folks (with 5,000 more shivering outside) cheer Sanders in Boston, but there hasn't been an arena-sized event in or around the nation's fifth-largest city -- not for Sanders or Trump or Ted Cruz or Hillary Clinton, or anybody.
That's why I was a little shocked to learn today that Clinton is ditching Iowa -- with its caucus less than a week away and polls showing here in a dead heat with Sanders -- to come to Philadelphia, of all places. What could be worth more than shaking hands and making eye contact with salt-of-the-earth voters in the American Heartland?
Despite being dogged with questions about her ties to Wall Street, Hillary Clinton will take a detour from the campaign trail in Iowa to do a finance industry fundraiser on Wednesday.
Clinton will appear in Philadelphia at a "gala" fund-raiser hosted by executives at Franklin Square Capital Partners, a $17 billion investment fund. Rocker Bon Jovi will reportedly play an acoustic set for "friends" who pledge $1,000 and hosts who bundle up to $27,000.
The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that "Franklin Square employs Ivy League-educated money managers and salespeople with experience at big Wall Street firms – plus four personal trainers and a dietitian to keep staff happy and productive amid the gym, yoga and nap rooms, Sol LeWitt art installations, and fancy cafeteria."
At the last minute, HRC postponed a second fundraiser that was to be hosted by Wall Street big shots in New York City. Politically, this still strikes me as bat-guano crazy. Clinton has seen here once seemingly insurmountable national lead over Sanders greatly scaled back -- and risks losing Iowa (possibly) and New Hampshire (definitely) -- in good measure because liberal Democrats think that a) Wall Street billionaire interests have hijacked our political system and b) Hillary Clinton and her ex-president husband are Exhibits A and B of that hijacking. Reminding voters of her ties to the financial sector on the eve of the Iowa caucus seems like a political death wish.
And the truth is, events like this Bon Jovi gala at the Navy Yard are exactly why it feels like American democracy is livin' on a prayer these days. Franklin Square Capital may have brought a few better-than-good paying jobs to Philadelphia -- thanks for your service, and all -- but it also seems like the kind of company that would love, and need, to have the ear of the federal government. The financial press has questioned the company's aggressive marketing, its comparatively high fees and sometimes flagging investment returns; The Intercept notes that one of its main funds is deeply invested in the extraction of fossil fuels through controversial processes like fracking -- issues that will be hugely influenced by the 45th president.
Despite what Clinton would have you believe, running for president doesn't have to be this way. Since the fall, Sanders has nearly matched Clinton's money train, but almost all of it from hundreds of thousands of small donors. That's raising money the old-fashioned way...earning it.
But at least give Franklin Square Capital credit for finding a way to meet a presidential front-runner in the flesh, something that's eluded the average Philadelphian. Unless you want to plunk down 1,000 clams tomorrow night. Or fly to Des Moines and hope that one of the candidates stumbles into your diner or coffee shop this weekend.
But you've got a much better shot with the cash.