Of Pennsylvania, who had a brain tumor...

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER

November 17, 1994|By THEO LIPPMAN JR.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER of Pennsylvania, who had a brain tumor removed last year, announced this week that he is a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Apparently the surgeons didn't get it all. Or maybe they got too much. Arlen Specter has no more chance of being nominated for president than does the last Pennsylvanian who sought it. That would be Harold Stassen, a Minnesotan who has become Philadelphia's version of Ross Pierpont.

In fact, I would say Specter has no more chance of being nominated for president in 1996 than does the last Pennsylvanian who was nominated. That would be Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock in 1880, who is, as you probably know, dead.

Actually, Hancock left Pennsylvania to go to West Point in 1840 and didn't come back to stay till it was time to bury him.

He was a career officer in the U.S. Army, and a Civil war hero, when politicians convinced him to accept the 1880 Democratic presidential nomination. He was living in New York at the time. After losing to James A. Garfield, by only 1,898 votes out of 9 million cast, he remained in New York till he died.

As presidential breeding grounds, Pennsylvania is the poorest performer of all the states. It is the fifth most populous state today, but it was second or third from 1788 through 1980 and produced only two major-party presidential nominees: Hancock, who lost, and James Buchanan, who won in 1856.

I know, some Reader in Gettysburg is thinking, "What about Ike, Theo?" Yes, Dwight David Eisenhower was a resident of Pennsylvania in 1956 when he was re-elected president. But like vTC Scott before him, Ike was a professional soldier who was living in New York when he was elected president in 1952.

Unlike Scott, he was not a Pennsylvanian to begin with, but a Texan, raised in Kansas. After he entered the White House, he moved his official residence to a farm at Gettysburg that he had bought in 1950.

Not only has Pennsylvania produced only one president and one other presidential nominee, it has produced no contenders. I've searched the primary and convention annals and found no bona fide candidates for nomination.

Some say Gov. William Scranton was, in 1964, when the Stop Goldwater crowd put him up. I disagree. Scranton got a lot of ink. I wrote some laudatory and in hindsight silly stories about his candidacy, myself. But he got less than 1 percent of the primary vote outside Pennsylvania and less than 20 percent of the delegate vote at the convention.

Like Scranton, Specter is a liberal Republican. Do you need to know anything else about my reasoning that he hasn't got a dead man's chance of being nominated for president by the party of Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Phil Gramm, Jesse Helms, and, for that matter, Ellen Sauerbrey and Rick Santorum, the newly elected right-wing Republican senator from Pennsylvania?

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