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Lehigh Valley

Images from the Lehigh Valley
Host Paul Gigot and several JOURNAL EDITORIAL REPORT contributors travel to the Lehigh Valley to discuss the upcoming elections with editor Peter Leffler, pollster Chris Borick and local residents.

PETER LEFFLER, STATE EDITOR, THE MORNING CALL: The Lehigh Valley is a microcosm of the state. Up until about a generation ago it was heavily blue collar. It still is in a sense that people could and did follow their father and grandfather into Bethlehem Steel and Mack Trucks, as everybody probably knows from the Bill Joel song.

That's changed.

In the 90's here there was a boom, part of the high tech wave. Unfortunately that has collapsed. And so right now, we're kind of in between. There's no boom going on here right now.

Images from the Lehigh Valley CHRIS BORICK, INSTITUTE OF PUBLIC OPINION, MUHLENBERG COLLEGE: It's a place where no single party dominates, a place that you could say truly has a balanced political competition between Republicans and Democrats.

PAUL GIGOT: And going with the winner?

CHRIS BORICK: It has a great record of going with the winner.

PAUL GIGOT: So what are the dominant issues now as we go into the last 50 days of this election?

CHRIS BORICK: Three issues have dominated these discussions in all our polls and all our focus groups.

CHRIS BORICK: It's the economy. It's terrorism. And it's the war in Iraq.

Images from the Lehigh Valley
PAUL GIGOT: Talk to us about the impact of the war here.

PAUL LEFFLER: We have our couple of guard units in the Lehigh Valley.

PAUL LEFFLER: People here have served.


PAUL LEFFLER: Some of our folks in fact were at the prison, in Iraq, where the abuses, alleged abuses went on. Here in the Valley it's playing like anywhere else. It's the big wild card.

PAUL GIGOT: What's on the minds of voters as they consider President Bush versus Senator Kerry?

WOMAN ON STREET: I would think terrorism.

MAN ON STREET: The war as it stands has been a big mistake.

PAUL GIGOT: Is the war on terror and the perception of a strong commander-in-chief, the best issue President Bush has?

CHRIS BORICK: It's a very powerful issue. When you compare Senator Kerry to George Bush and how Pennsylvanians view them in terms of fighting terrorism - it's no question that the President drives more support.

PAUL GIGOT: Who's going to decide this election in the Lehigh Valley? Are the people who are genuinely undecided are going to make up their mind at the last few days? Or are these people who are right now committed but will break away from either one of the candidates?

CHRIS BORICK: My gut instinct is it's going to be those undecideds.

Images from the Lehigh Valley
JASON RILEY: What are the big issues for you two this election year?

BRIAN GOTWALD: Prescription medicine, we're getting older. Health care. Health care.

MRS. GOTWALD: You can't keep up with it.

BRIAN GOTWALD: Both candidates ought to spend more time helping senior citizens.

LABORER: I'm a union laborer, okay. It's jobs. There's 400 laborers in my local that's off. A couple hundred carpenters, pipefitters, everybody. There's just no big job.

Images from the Lehigh Valley KIM STRASSEL: Is national security and the war the main thing you vote on this time?

LADY ON LINE: It's one of the things. Nobody wants to have to send anybody to war. I have two sons that possibly could go any time too.

KIM STRASSEL: What will make you decide, and when?

LADY ON LINE: I really don't know.

Images from the Lehigh Valley
PAUL GIGOT: The president tried to make the Iraq War an integral part of the war on terror. ... Has he been successful in making that link with voters here?

CHRIS BORICK: No. And in fact, this has been one of the key weaknesses I think for the President in Pennsylvania and I think an opportunity for Senator Kerry. ... If he could disentangle terrorism and Iraq. ...The war in Iraq, although rebounding slightly, is still not very popular in Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

Home Town Diner

PAUL GIGOT: If Iraq is the biggest issue, what's going to turn it for you for either for President Bush or Senator Kerry??

PATRON: I'm looking to see an end to it. The final thing. Just end it. We don't want another Vietnam.

Images from the Lehigh ValleyPAUL GIGOT: Are you decided or undecided yet?

PATRON: Undecided yet. PAUL GIGOT: Undecided. Who'd you vote for last time?


PAUL GIGOT: You voted for Bush. Okay. Is there an important issue for you, is there one overriding issue?

PATRON: The health care issue.

PAUL GIGOT: The health care issue.

Images from the Lehigh Valley
PAUL GIGOT: You haven't mentioned health care. It's not a top three issue?

CHRIS BORICK: It's not a top three. But it's knocking on the door.

PAUL GIGOT: So Bush has the lead and momentum. But Iraq is a big wild card?

CHRIS BORICK: Very much so. I'd say that, you know, it's a statistically dead heat. Bush has the momentum right now. But as many people have said, the issue that might determine this election has yet to happen. And I think people around the Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania are very much in that, in that wait and see pattern.