Welcome, Candidates! It's been a long time since Pennsylvania mattered in a presidential contest and we are elated to host you. As your self-appointed advance man, I offer the following survival tips for your seven-week sojourn into the Keystone state:
Pronunciation matters. When in Philadelphia, make certain that Olney is "ahl-uh-nee," Passyunk "pa-shunk" and the Schuylkill "skoo-kul."
In central Pennsylvania, Juniata County is not akin to a Hispanic first name, but rather "joo-nee-atta." In Pittsburgh, it's spelled Monongahela, and pronounced the same way.
Sports. Work in a mention of the Eagles (pronounced "Iggles") anytime traveling east of Harrisburg; reference JoePa whenever driving through or flying over central Pennsylvania, and describe the Immaculate Reception anytime subjected to a Q&A in Pittsburgh.
"Big Five" means basketball, and not the number of superdelegates controlled by city Democratic chairman Bob Brady.
Amish country: It's beautiful, but you may want to avoid Intercourse, Pa., for press avails. Ditto Blue Ball.
Politicos call it the "T." That's anything outside of the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia media markets. If you don't know why, get out a map and some crayons and it will come to you.
James Carville. Yeah, we know what he said about Alabama. Still, it's no reason to shout out "Free Bird" in central Pennsylvania. Better you reference Bon Jovi.
If you want to establish some street cred with the locals, tell Tim Russert you can't appear on "Meet the Press" because of a time conflict with Sid Mark's "Sundays with Sinatra."
The start of hunting season is a school holiday in much of the state.
Consider Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" for a rally introduction.
Philadelphia photo-ops. When you do the obligatory Reading Terminal stop, don't ask where the trains are. Similarly, no need to ask why 9th Street is called the Italian, and not the Asian, market.
Quote from the Daily News, not the Inquirer, to show you are a people person, excepting only the "Currents" section on Sundays.
Don't worry about rain on Election Day unless there is an antiquated map on Channel 6 with a puffy cloud over Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvanians love John Heinz and his family's ketchup. The jury is still out on Teresa.
We already know we deserved the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, no need for the reminder. (BTW, Philadelphia has a soft spot for classic rock, and we'd like to see Yes in that Hall of Fame.)
Philadelphians are tired of a particular tourist question. The answer is: He ran up the steps of the Art Museum.
Whatever the problem, a local man named David L. Cohen can solve it.
Upstate, if you say "youse," it will get you an applause line; ditto for "younz" in western Pennsylvania.
Anywhere but central PA, complain about not being able to buy a six-pack in a Wawa.
Dietary. The Geno's vs. Pat's decision is more important than NAFTA. If you speak English, support the memory of Police Officer Danny Faulkner and want a fence built on the Mexican border, go to Geno's; otherwise it is Pat's. Either way, do not make the mistake that cost John Kerry the White House - never, ever, order a cheesesteak with Swiss cheese.
Also, order scrapple for breakfast. Just don't ask what's in it. In Pittsburgh, if you are offered a sandwich stuffed with french fries, fried lunch meat and cole slaw, say "yes" and don't act surprised.
City Hall. Ignore the white noise you may hear above the mayor's desk; it has to do with a previous tenant.
Endorsements. If you are offered support from something called the Geator with the Heater, accept it. If you are asked whether you know anyone called "Sir Charles," tell them to put the call through. Also, try to have your picture taken with Pat Croce. Finally, see if Jimmy Rollins will say you are the candidate to beat.
One more thing. If you are asked any question that calls for an answer with a list, be sure to include Sister Mary Scullion, as she makes every list.
Follow Michael Smerconish on Twitter: www.twitter.com/smerconish