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Election Retro, Pittsburgh is HIP!

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A little old, but who needs Silicon Valley, South Beach or Austin? Pittsburgh rocked out:

To the young, Pittsburgh is hip and desirable -- for two more days

Sunday, October 31, 2004

By Alana Semuels, PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE

Pittsburgh -- the second biggest city in one of the most politically divided states in this election -- may rank only 36th on urban planning guru Richard Florida's lists of places that attract young, vibrant and intelligent workers, but for the last few weeks, at least, we've been the bomb.

20041031mrbonjovi_450.jpg

Turn on your TV and you cannot escape the political ads advocating for both presidential candidates -- ads that folks in three of professor Florida's "hottest" cities, San Francisco, Boston and Austin, Texas, can only read about. Almost two-thirds of Americans live in areas where no national political ads have aired, according to the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project.

The advertising campaign has narrowed to 10 battleground states, and Pennsylvania is one of them. The Wisconsin project said Pittsburgh was No. 12 on its list of the top 50 media markets, measured by presidential spots aired between Sept. 24 and Oct. 7. None of Florida's top five cities -- the other two were Seattle and San Diego -- made it on the list.

We've been visited by Bon Jovi and The Boss, Vice President Dick Cheney, former Vice President Gore, the candidates themselves, their wives, their children and various other big-name surrogates. The Electoral College has rendered the vote so precious in this state that my young friends from hip, metropolitan cities actually are using vacation time to visit here and other swing states to influence the vote.

A friend's sister from London moved to Pittsburgh for the two weeks preceding the election to campaign for Sen. Kerry. A friend from the non-state of Washington, D.C., is flying to South Dakota to campaign for a Republican candidate. And a Massachusetts resident skipped Saturday's historic Red Sox parade to go to New Hampshire to try and reverse the curse of pitcher Curt Schilling's endorsement of Bush.

But my vote counts more than their votes do. In fact, it is possible that people under 35 who live in nonswing states might not even vote in this year's election because their vote will not change the outcome of the race. In non-swing-state California, only 28 percent of people 18 to 24 voted in the 2000 election, and only 39 percent of people 25 to 44 voted. Compare that to swing state of Ohio, where 37 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 55 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds voted in 2000.

The young, single, college-educated in Pittsburgh who have watched their peers bleed from this state, trickling away to other locations, are now watching their city become the pulsing heart of it all for a few short weeks. There's almost an Oz-like atmosphere where baseball stars and music artists are on the stump and young canvassers are as prevalent as munchkins. In this media market, the Republican Party tells us that al-Qaida operatives are wolves waiting to devour us, and the Democrats want us to know that President Bush is an ostrich, not an eagle. Wolves, eagles, ostriches, oh my -- we're clearly not in Kansas (a red state) anymore.

And on Nov. 3, all the young advocates who have come here and other swing cities will head home to the creative and vibrant cities where, although their vote doesn't count, it matters little because it means they are surrounded by like-minded individuals. Election season is fascinating in Pennsylvania, but the post-election migration will be enough to make this Massachusetts transplant want to click my ruby red socks together and remember, there's no place like home.

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