Skip to comments.Congressional Democrats’ Pennsylvania Problem
Posted on 06/29/2012 5:30:18 PM PDT by randita
Congressional Democrats Pennsylvania Problem Stuart Rothenberg June 29, 2012 · 3:48 PM EDT
As Democrats struggle to net 25 seats and win back the House majority in November, no single state reflects the partys challenges more than Pennsylvania.
After all, Pennsylvania has gone Democratic in the past five presidential contests, and the apparent movement of the Philadelphia suburbs away from the GOP during the past two decades suggests a fundamental political shift in the state.
But if the southeastern corner of the Keystone State has started to resemble New Jersey and Connecticut, Western Pennsylvania increasingly looks like West Virginia or southeastern Ohio, areas where voters have started to think and behave more like Republicans. This movement of working-class voters toward the GOP has helped offset the partisan trend in the Philadelphia suburbs, keeping Pennsylvania an interesting and competitive state.
Pennsylvania swung wildly between 2006 and 2010, as most of the country did.
Democrats gained a total of five House seats in the Keystone State in the 2006 and 2008 elections one-tenth of their total haul. After the 08 elections, Democrats held 12 of the states 19 Congressional districts. Two years later, the numbers flipped, with Republicans sitting in 12 seats.
Redistricting after the 2010 census, of course, has further changed the states arithmetic because the GOP-controlled state Legislature made it more difficult for House Democrats to make gains by packing Democratic voters together, including throwing two incumbent Democrats into the same district.
So, while Democrats remain hopeful about retaking the House, Pennsylvania is starting to look like a black hole for them this year. And if the party cant come out of Pennsylvania gaining even a single additional House seat this cycle, there will be extra pressure in states such as Illinois, California and Florida, where redistricting did benefit Democrats, to pick up seats.
Democrats best opportunity in the state remains the 8th district, a competitive Bucks County seat that incumbent Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) won in 2004, lost in 2006 and won back in 2010.
According to GOP calculations, after redistricting, that district is less than a point more Republican than it was in 2008, when Sen. John McCain drew less than 46 percent of the vote there. And yet, the Democratic nominee is Kathy Boockvar, a politically untested attorney who had $250,000 in the bank on April 4, compared with $927,000 for Fitzpatrick.
Boockvar had a small legal practice for more than a decade and then worked for a few years for a nonprofit organization as their Pennsylvania voting rights counsel. Democratic operatives note that the nature of the district creates a problem for Fitzpatrick. But Boockvar doesnt have the kind of story, credentials or assets automatically associated with a top-tier challenger.
Democrats next best opportunity in the state is the 6th district, where Manan Trivedi is making another run at Rep. Jim Gerlach (R). Trivedi, a physician and Iraq War vet, is a credible challenger, and the district is politically competitive. But Gerlach, who survived 06 and 08, has proved that he can win just more than 50 percent of the vote in this district no matter how hostile the political environment.
Finally, Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, who is taking on Rep. Tim Murphy (R), might be worth a look. A former Marine, state trooper and county sheriff, Maggi is a county commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2002. But although he was the candidate preferred by the Democratic establishment (and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) in that race, he lost the primary.
On April 4, Maggi had $267,000 on hand compared with Murphys almost $1.4 million. McCain actually ran better in both the old and redrawn district than President George W. Bush did in 2004, suggesting that President Barack Obamas presence at the top of the ticket in November wont help Maggis underdog bid.
Elsewhere, Republicans who were top Democratic targets in previous cycles seem barely threatened this time.
Freshman Rep. Patrick Meehan, whose district got more than 4 points better for him under the new lines, is being challenged by attorney George Badey, longtime chairman of the Radnor Democratic Committee. Badey had $193,000 in the bank compared with Meehans $1 million on April 4.
Almost every cycle, Democrats come up with someone they say will give politically savvy Rep. Charlie Dent (R) a real run for his money. Not this time. Lehigh County Democratic Chairman Richard Daugherty showed less than $4,500 in the bank as of April 4.
In the northwest corner of the state, freshman Rep. Mike Kelly looks like an obvious Democratic target in a district that legislators made barely more Republican than it was when former Democratic Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper won it in 2008. But the Democratic nominee this time, Missa Eaton, who teaches at Penn State Shenango, had $16,000 in the bank on April 4.
And Democrats cant take their own Pittsburgh/Johnstown seat for granted. Rep. Mark Critz won a primary against a Democratic colleague, but he now faces a serious challenge from Republican Keith Rothfus, who narrowly lost two years ago to Rep. Jason Altmire (D).
Some might see the weak Pennsylvania class of challengers as a recruiting failure by the DCCC and particularly by its recruiting chairwoman, Rep. Allyson Schwartz (Pa.). But you cant make interesting, credentialed candidates run if they dont want to, and it looks as if Keystone Democrats have decided this isnt the year to run against incumbent Republicans in Pennsylvania.
Some of the Democrats problems might be because of Obama, who is expected to be weak in Western Pennsylvania. In addition, redistricting insulated supposedly weaker Republican incumbents, including freshman Reps. Tom Marino and Lou Barletta.
Schwartz, who insists her party does have a number of good opportunities in the state, told me this week that the lateness of the new map, which wasnt finalized until December, and rumors throughout the second half of 2011 suggesting Democrats would have to run in very unfriendly districts made recruiting more difficult than it ordinarily would have been.
Democrats will try to improve their prospects in Pennsylvania during the next few months, but it looks as if the party will need to look elsewhere in its much advertised Drive to 25.
Rothenberg released a new set of House ratings today. Looks like he has improved on the GOP chances since his last set of ratings.
Interesting that he has Matheson as Toss Up/Tilt GOP. No wonder Matheson is boycotting the convention. He’s reading the tea leaves.
Not that I should be giving the Dim’s advice..
Don’t worry about gaining the house.
Worry about minimizing losses...
Tim Murphy has been very visible at community functions in his southwestern PA district, pressing the flesh. The Trib, the conservative Pittsburgh paper, continues to excoriate him as a ‘union lover’. If he loses and the Dem takes his seat, the Trib will have handed the seat to gleeful Democrats.
So what does he call Arkansas 4th? Safe Democrat? Most local Democrats I speak to expect a Republican pickup.
Gerlach had 57% of the vote in 2010 vs Trividi in the PA 6. This seat isn’t up for grabs like the author wants one to believe.
Murphy is a little too union friendly for my taste but, hell, the 18th district is very blue collar and he has to throw them a bone once in awhile to survive. Rick Santorum had to do the same when he represented our district, as the Newtbots will gleefully remind everyone.
(Thanks, Newtbots, Santorum actually had a decent shot of winning the nomination in February when Newt couldn't read the writing on the wall after Super Tuesday.)
It’s not about PA going blue, it’s about voter fraud. Unless we fix that, absentee ballots included, we haven’t got a chance.
AR-04 is not on Rothenberg’s list of the 66 seats he thinks are in play. So he probably considers it Safe-R with Ross retiring.
John McCain got 58% of the vote there in 2008.
He’s still got McCotter listed in Michigan. I thought he had given up after being the victim of some kind of dirty trick with the petition to get on the ballot (most of the names submitted were invalid). He won more than 60% of the vote in 2010 so it should be a reasonably safe seat for a Republican.
I have, for the first time in my voting lifetime, a pubbie for a state congress critter, and a pubbie for a state senator.
We still have john roberts as chief lewinsky on the supreme court.
In 2010 - Pennsylvania elected in Republican governor, Republican Senator and both houses in Harrisburg went Republican for the first time in 30 years.
Philadelphia democrats have been neutered and they have no friends in Harrisburg anymore to bring home the graft. Their “big guns” are dead, retired or in jail.
No one on Bucks County (liberal white) likes obama much anymore.
I just wish the Republicans would do a Walker and free the state workers from bring FORCED to join a public union as a condition of employment.
Gee,,,,,,does this mean nobody is going to the Obamacare Convention in Sept.??
During the 2000 election fiasco,it dawned on me: we can NEVER, EVER vote for a Democrat in a local election!!! Not for the city commission, the county alderman, or dog catcher!! We cannot let them get their foot in the door!
This is what TEA Party and Repub volunteers should be working for. Pennsylvania has much work to do.
Call and volunteer to be a poll watcher. There should be several in each precinct. Take the day off and help stop the fraud.
How many seats does he foresee the Republicans winning without much challenge?
Every republican gov should be cleaning up their states’ voting rolls and integrity.. Like Rick Scott in Fl.
“Maddening these idiots flee the chaos in the city and come to the burbs and continue to vote for the same party that ruined the city”
Just like the Illegal Alien Mexicans here in California. They are like animals who have succeeded in crapping up their own nest to such an extent that it is no longer livable, so they move on to a nicer place and start their defecating all over again! Maybe we should start a government program to buy all of them a big screen so that they have something to do besides procreating to occupy their spare time! Judging from some recent posts, we should probably extend that program to all the AA’s as well.
“So what does he call Arkansas 4th? Safe Democrat? Most local Democrats I speak to expect a Republican pickup.”
All these pollsters are the same. Rasmussen shows McCaskill as a tossup when Silverman is over 50% and nine points ahead of her. It’s always the same, they stick with the incumbent until the eleventh hour. It’s the same with Heller in Nevada, but he’s the appointed incumbent at 51% with his opponent ( a worthless liberal ex professor transplant) polling only 40%. Go figure!
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