Barack Obama is doing well in most of the United States, most surprisingly in rural states that have backed Republicans since before I was born. But not in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton has a double-digit lead in the primary by most accounts.

Why is that?

I think it's because Obama's one-word campaign doesn't play very well in the Keystone State. He tells America to have "Hope" for the future, but Pennsylvania, maybe more than any other state, seemingly gave up hope a long time ago.

I can't say exactly why everyone is so roll-over-and-die here, it's just a fact of life. And this isn't some Maryland transplant talking; I've never lived too much more than an hour's drive from Harrisburg my entire life.

I still have loyalty to the place, but sometimes it's much like Obama's loyalty to his pastor of questionable opinion: They mean too much to cut-and-run no matter how logical the decision might be to others.

My bachelor party was last weekend, and I took the party to my hometown of Berrysburg, a northern Dauphin County burg of fewer than 400 surrounded by crumbling towns with hole-in-the-wall bar rooms.

We hit up those bar rooms from one end of the valley to the other, and we had a good time -- even those who were stuck being the taxi service for the evening.

But there was one feeling I couldn't kick. Every bar we went into, I felt like I was crashing someone else's party.


I came in with hope for the future, and my friends came in with the hope of getting me entirely too intoxicated and sending me out with a bang.

Already inside the bars, though, were the beer starers. An odd term, I know, but you probably know the types. For them, life seems a cycle of leaving dead-end jobs quite depressed and spending as much as is affordable on cheap beer.

And it's not so much for the intoxication. It's so that they can stare into the suds and wish for the answers and believe the answers to their problems will pop out.

The older ones worked for the old shoe, shirt or tool factories that moved out long ago, or the coal mines that lost their economic viability years before. The younger ones couldn't afford college after their parents' jobs flew the coop, and they maybe got some trade school education.

But it was probably little to show them there is something outside the economic devastation that is small-town and small-city Pennsylvania. Or at least not enough to prove to them life could be any better somewhere else. And why would they want to have hope? Life is just a letdown anyhow.

Life in central Pennsylvania is like life support until you die, with an IV drip for $11 a case.

There are a lot of possible reasons why Pennsylvania leads the nation in this view on life.

We have hundreds of small towns and cities, and they were at their peak during the height of American industry. But this was just a setup for failure, as many of them were single-company towns that died when their companies moved operations to China.

Our farm economy, so close to the eastern seaboard and its sprawling metropolises, was perfectly positioned for success. Until the age of cheap transportation began hauling in corn, wheat, meat and other products from large farms in the Midwest and California, not constrained from expanding into corporate giants by our rocky hill country or shorter growing seasons.

Farmers began to look to the towns and cities for jobs, just about the same time the jobs began going overseas.

And where there wasn't farmland or a city that grew up on a river, there were endless seams of good, hard coal for industries elsewhere. Until, that is, strip mining Wyoming coal and hauling it across the continent became cheaper than digging ever deeper into Pennsylvania's reserves.

Even the depressed former company-towners and ex-farmers call that part of the collapsed economy "The Coal Hole."

Of course, hauling is getting a lot more expensive, and maybe there is some hope in that for Pennsylvania. But today, it's barely a glimmer.

Today, Pennsylvania is a perfect storm of people who were left behind by both Republican and Democratic administrations in the past 40 years -- and after all, we only get to chose between Republicans and Democrats again this year.

You can hardly blame Pennsylvania for tuning out when its choice is between the wife of Bill Clinton, who never brought the boom to this neck of the woods to replace jobs sent away by his signing of NAFTA, and a guy who says kids who tried to use ROTC and the reserves to pay for college and a better life will be stuck in Iraq for 100 years.

Of course, there is this third guy. The one who talks about hope for the future. But Pennsylvanians will vote for cold, hard reality, even one they hate, before they buy into something that time has proven to be a fairytale.

Brent Burkey is a business reporter for the York Daily Record/Sunday News. Reach him at