Salena Zito

GETTYSBURG– The owner of Tommy Gilbert’s Hobby Shop expects summer’s tourist season to be impacted by what he calls an “alarming” rise in gasoline prices.

“It’s been a lean winter despite the mild weather,” he said, his shop empty except for a family member who sat complaining about town politics.

Eight miles east along the Lincoln Highway, the town of New Oxford greets travelers with signs promising “Antique Capitol of Central Pennsylvania.” Other small towns may dispute that, but a generous number of antique shops do dot New Oxford’s main street.

“See those license plates in our parking lot?” asked a cashier at The Antique Mall. He pointed to Maryland, Ohio, Virginia and District of Columbia tags on the cars parked outside.

“Our business isn’t local. We rely on tourists,” he explained. “After Christmas, our business was up over 25 percent from the year before. By summer, we might be down double that.”

Located where Livingston Shoes once were made, the shop now holds weekly ghost tours. As in many small touristy towns, such tours help to supplement the business when business is slow.

“I blame this economy on Obama,” the cashier added.

That may not be entirely fair. Yet it is at the root of why the president hasn’t moved forward in Pennsylvania polls for years.

Yes, years.

His problem is not just an economy that is slowly, painfully recovering. It is the symbolism of how he is leading the country that drags him down, such as getting busted on an open microphone telling Russia’s president that negotiations on missile defense will be different after he wins re-election.

Or his misfired attempt to align with voters frustrated over gas prices by saying they were getting hit twice – once at the pump and then by providing billions of dollars in tax subsidies to oil companies.

Yes, we are getting hit twice – but the second slam that regular folks want to see addressed is the skyrocketing of food prices, not a fake attempt to blame oil companies.

Voters want solutions, not blame-gaming.

Pennsylvaniavoters are more a combination of Jeffersonian and Jacksonian ideals and values than they are Democrats or Republicans. And that’s why Barack Obama is tied in the Keystone State with Republican Mitt Romney.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.