Another Candidate's Visit To Quakertown That Wasn't

June 18, 2012

Every Town Counts. They just may not know it yet. Make that we just may not know it yet. The Borough of Quakertown, founded 1803, can't catch a presidential break.

Commander-in-Chief candidates seem to want to make appearances here, but, for the love of James Buchanan, it just doesn't happen. (The 15th President, and the only one from PA, isn't known to have campaigned here either.) Yeah, we had a 2008 visit from Bill Clinton, but he had, err, "smoked" his final White House cigar long before.

John McCain and Sarah Palin gave it a try - twice in fact - later that same year, but were rained out on the first go-round, and then denied permission to use the school gym by politically-motivated QCSD Superintendent Lisa Andrejko. McCain's non-appearance here will forever be remembered for the October rainstorm that turned Memorial Park Stadium's turf into a quagmire, and the fact that his camp left the place in such shambles that the borough had to sue the Republican National Committee two years later for more than $36,000 to get them to cover the costs.

McCain eventually did hold his rally - at the Pennridge Airport - when Andrejko, acting entirely on her own, refused permission to appear on school property. It was apparently OK for Clinton in April, but verboten for McCain six months later. Her justification was ....err, we're still waiting.

But despite the prior weather debacle, despite the lawsuit, and despite the rejection by our school superintendent, it was a pleasant surprise that the GOP was willing to give us another shot at our 15 minutes (or less) of fame.

At 10:28 AM on Thursday, June 14, the following item appeared on the Morning Call website. It should have been very exciting news to Upper Bucks Republicans, and even those non-politicos who just enjoy seeing a celebrity in our neck of the woods.

"Romney to visit Quakertown on swing through Pennsylvania. Campaign makes first major general election foray into Keystone State. Republican Mitt Romney's "Believe in America: Every Town Counts" bus tour will swing through Quakertown Saturday. The expected visit to northern Bucks County is part of a five-day campaign foray through six rust-belt swing states. The tour starts today in New Hampshire, will stop in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and Wisconsin, and finish up in Michigan on Tuesday. The Quakertown stop is expected to be one of three campaign events Romney will hold in Pennsylvania Saturday, said a Republican party source with knowledge of the event schedule. The Philadelphia suburbs and the Lehigh Valley are expected to be a key battleground in the contest."

Zowie, we're back on the political map again. Not many details, but, hey, if Mittens wants to have a photo op amidst our Downtown Beautification Project, or hang with dignitaries outside our stately, restored train station, or stroll authoritatively through our spacious Veterans Park, (or even soft-peddle Romneycare on the steps of St Luke's Hospital), we could be proud of the great publicity Quakertown would get on the national network news. The Liberty Bell once slept here, you know.

So, about noon on June 14, when I read the glad tidings, I emailed Borough Manager Scott McElree "I hope you guys get better cooperation for the cleanup after Romney than you did from McCain."

To which Scott quickly responded "Did you hear or read he was coming to Q-town? I heard some rumors, but no official word yet." Hmmmmm. Arrangements for celebrity visits, especially ones that just ooze security, need to be thorough. So, given that this isn't the kind of thing that we do often, I immediately emailed Quakertown Police Chief Scott McElree concerning the measures that our local constabulary might have to take to accommodate the Mittenbus. "I assume they would have gotten around to telling you eventually, just in case you needed to do some planning, like QPD overtime on a summer weekend...."

To which Scott quickly responded "We have not been advised yet, but hopefully they'll contact us if any logistical assistance is needed." To which I responded "The Romney campaign needing assistance from the local Police Chief?? Who would have thought??? I just assumed they would handle crowd control, traffic, parking, vehicle routes, and security all by themselves....and then duck the bill for cleanup and restoration. We've heard that tune before." After all, this is the Every Town Counts tour. We just hope that it doesn't leave us counting our losses - again.

Romney had a lot of towns to count that day, so Bucks County Republican Party vice chair Pat Poprik acknowledged that she expected the Quakertown appearance to be fairly brief. Indeed, Romney spokesperson Kate Meriwether allowed that he "might" say a few words. "It's not like there's any specific messaging," she said. "He's just swinging by to say hello." Oh well, at least our town counts, however briefly, to a potential White House occupant.

At 4:33 that day, the Pony Express arrived with an update.... There were expected to be three campaign events in Pennsylvania on Saturday. The first would be that morning at 8:45, at the Weatherly Casting and Machine company in Carbon County. The Harrisburg Patriot-News reported that the last stop would be at the Cornwall Iron Furnace, in Lebanon County. Both picturesque, and historical, backdrops. So, in our 215-year old town, where would Mittens choose for his (and our) close-up?

The good news for us was: The Quakertown area stop would be at.... err, a Wawa gas station!!!

A Wawa gas station??? Every Town Counts, but does Qtown really want to show the nation the image of Mittens sandwiched between a pump and a sandwich? Actually, the nation wouldn't even get the opportunity to notice, because the really good video from Saturday's tour was going to be from a Casting and Machine Company, or an Iron Forge. The venerable Religious Society of Friends was collectively rolling over in their borough graves.

And, then, the final crushing blow - Mittens wouldn't actually be in Quakertown after all!!! There are two local Wawas, one in Milford Township near the Quakertown interchange of the Northeast Extension, and one on Route 309 in Richland Township. The campaign chose Milford, probably because it is closer to I-476, and a quick place to gas up both the bus and the campaign workers' stomachs. The recognition gods were still laughing at us.

Alas, by 7:00 Saturday morning, the online Intel headline read "Romney at Milford Wawa Saturday at 12:40". Sic transit gloria Qvakertovn. Our fame is so fleeting.

The ultimate irony was that the Romney camp flip-flopped at the last minute, and decided not to stop in Milford after all. Too many Democratic hecklers waiting. So they pandered, err, meandered a little to the left, and a little to the right, and ended up playing it safe at the Richland location, with a meatball sub, err, hoagie, with sweet peppers. For all of about 10 minutes.

Well, at least the visit didn't have a McCainesque ending. Instead of rain, we got a rainbow. The sun was yellow, the sky was blue, the sweet peppers were green, and the opposition Democrats were seeing red. A beautiful day for yet another campaign disappointment - where our Town of Quakers is always a bridesmaid, never a bride.