The Pittsburgh Steelers Owner Backs "Underdog" Obama in the Pennsylvania Primary

Even amid the "bitter" controversy over remarks that have the potential to alienate some Pennsylvania voters, Sen. Barack Obama may still be able to attract the support of one important Pennsylvania demographic.

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Even amid the "bitter" controversy over remarks that have the potential to alienate some Pennsylvania voters, Sen. Barack Obama may still be able to attract the support of one important Pennsylvania demographic—Pittsburgh Steelers fans—thanks to an endorsement made yesterday from Steelers owner and chairman Dan Rooney.

Rooney, who planned to remain politically neutral, endorsed Obama Monday and appeared alongside the Illinois senator at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. "I think it came as a surprise to most political pundits in Pennsylvania," said Gerald Shuster, a professor of political communication and presidential rhetoric at the University of Pittsburgh who said the Rooneys traditionally stay away from political endorsements but usually finance campaigns on both sides of the aisle.

Though Rooney's endorsement might not directly translate to votes from those who call the Pittsburgh Steelers their favorite National Football League team, it certainly doesn't hurt to have the support of the owner of Pittsburgh's most prominent sports franchise. Many Pittsburghers and western Pennsylvanians are obsessed with the Steelers, who last won the Super Bowl in 2006.

And this endorsement could offset those from Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, who both pledged their support for Hillary Clinton when she visited Pittsburgh for its St. Patrick's Day parade. "I think [Rooney] represents a certain element of the city of Pittsburgh—people who are a bit more conservative, strangely enough," Shuster said.

In addition to offering vocal support for the candidate, Rooney also penned a letter to his fellow Pennsylvanians making a case for Obama. "True sports fans know that you support your team even when they are the underdogs," Rooney wrote. "Barack Obama is an underdog here but it is with great pride that I join his team."

—Nikki Schwab