Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

May 19, 2010

'WHERE IS THE WAVE?'.... Arguably the most important election yesterday wasn't a primary race, but rather, the congressional special election in Pennsylvania's 12th -- a contest to fill the vacancy left by the late Rep. Jack Murtha (D).

Observers in both parties considered the race something of a bellwether. Democrats ran Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, against businessman Tim Burns, who touted his "outsider" status and association with the right-wing Tea Party "movement."

It was the race Republicans felt like they had to win, and the RNC boasted repeatedly that a victory in Pennsylvania's 12th would foretell significant gains in the midterms. It didn't work out the way they'd hoped.

[T]he special election in Southwestern Pennsylvania suggested that Democrats were able to score victories in this challenging political environment. Mark Critz, a former aide to Mr. Murtha, defeated Tim Burns, a Republican businessman. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Mr. Critz had 53 percent, compared with 45 percent for Mr. Burns.

Though Democrats dominate in the district, its voters are blue-collar conservatives and it is exactly the type of swing district carried by Senator John McCain in the 2008 presidential race that Republicans must win if they are to reach their goal of taking control of the House in November. The loss dealt a blow to Republicans, who have been raising expectations for the fall.

"If you can't win a seat that is trending Republican in a year like this, then where is the wave?" asked Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, who said Republicans will need to examine what went wrong.

That's hardly an unreasonable question.

This is the only district in the country that backed Kerry in 2004, but McCain in 2008, suggesting it was trending heavily in the GOP's direction. If there's going to be a backlash against Dems right now, this should be the place to find it. Indeed, it was the bulk of Burns' platform -- he specifically ran against Washington, Speaker Pelosi, and the Obama presidency, a pitch Republicans intend to duplicate in other competitive districts through the fall.

And while polls showed Burns with a slight edge going into the election, Critz nevertheless won fairly easily.

Marc Ambinder noted yesterday, long before the polls even closed, "If the Republican doesn't [win], I think us pundits in Washington are going to have to revise our thinking about whether this is a wave election year for Republicans."

Once the results were in, Politico added that "Republicans failed spectacularly, losing on a level playing field where, in this favorable environment, they should have run roughshod over the opposition.... The district itself couldn't have been more primed for a Republican victory."

In fairness, there are some relevant caveats here. There was a Democratic Senate primary, which may have boosted turnout a bit in Critz's favor. For that matter, Critz didn't exactly run as a bold progressive -- he touted his opposition, for example, to the Affordable Care Act and cap-and-trade.

But Republicans decided weeks ago that this is the kind of district that they'll have to win this year. RNC Political Director Gentry Collins conceded yesterday that this is "exactly the kind of seat that we have to win." Last week, Newt Gingrich said, "This year, we have mobilized millions of people from all over the country, and they are ready to take back this country. It's going to start right here, right now in" Pennsylvania's 12th.

They lost by eight points. It raises uncomfortable questions for Republican strategists, who've done nothing but raise expectations about what's possible in November.

For those keeping score, there have been seven special elections for U.S. House seats since the president's inauguration 16 months ago: NY20, IL5, CA32, CA10, NY23, FL19, and PA12. Democrats have won all seven.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (36)

Bookmark and Share
 
Comments

Madame Chiang-Kai Pelosi loved Jack Murtha, so this seat was really a referendum on her dictatorship. Anyone would have thought that the Democrats would hold that seat by 30+ points. It's pretty obvious the Dems are in trouble.

Posted by: Myke K on May 19, 2010 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

May thanks be given to Shortstop for pushing this thread into being.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 19, 2010 at 8:40 AM | PERMALINK

Well, in fairness, Steve did say in the last post he was only addressing statewide races at that moment. We just all wanted to talk about PA-12 is all.

Posted by: shortstop on May 19, 2010 at 8:42 AM | PERMALINK

What's interesting to me, from what I've read, is that Burns ran a campaign pretty much solely based on his being AGAINST Pelosi and Obama.
But it's tough to win elections only when you can talk about what you're against. It's what you're for that gets people out to vote for you.
What are Republicans for? When you look at it that way, they're really not for much that a lot of Americans are for, they're alligning themselves with a minority fringe group and what it's for.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on May 19, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

This is good news for Republicans.

Don't ask me how. I'm sure the Republicans will be explaining that shortly.

Posted by: Joe Bauers on May 19, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

The Party of No approach takes the Republicans no where. A winner gives you a reason to vote for him. Just saying No to everything doesn't get it done.

McConnell and Boehner are the biggest pair of fools in modern American politics. I would suspect they are being interrogated closely by their members this morning. I am hoping the double down on stupid and go all in on obstructionism.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 19, 2010 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

I live in the eastern part of PA, so maybe I'm full of hooey.

That said, winners Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008 have something in common. They are both white. . .

Posted by: DAY on May 19, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

I wonder if the Teabagger's influence won't wind up being the wild card this fall, or at least not in the way the running narrative has it now. It just seems to me like the general voting public doesn't much like the tea party/Sarah Palin axis of the Republican party, or at least a number of polls would point to that. So all these far, far right primary wins the Tea Party's getting now will bite them come fall.
Maybe it's just wishful thinking on my part, but there does seem to be a disconnect between the beltway narrative of the grassroots upstarts and the public's distaste for them.

Posted by: Anon on May 19, 2010 at 8:59 AM | PERMALINK

As for PA-12 trending Democratic, I'd need to see some more data points. Specifically, ones that don't have a black Democrat at the top of the ballot. There is a reason it was the only district to go from Kerry to McCain and I don't think it was a Republican groundswell.

Posted by: westcoastie on May 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

It's truly delicious that Newt Gingrich has been embarrassed by this election, with a confident prediction of his turning out to be dead wrong. The Republicans are convinced that this election will be a repeat of 1994. I think it's more likely to be a repeat of 1998.

Posted by: T-Rex on May 19, 2010 at 9:00 AM | PERMALINK

as a murtha minion, critz may not have been a bold progressive but he ran on jobs jobs jobs and jobs. and he obviously knew how jack did it...

Posted by: neill on May 19, 2010 at 9:03 AM | PERMALINK

It raises uncomfortable questions for Republican strategists, who've done nothing but raise expectations about what's possible in November.

The question is, will it raise uncomfortable questions for the so-called "liberal media." Normally they're loath to change their narrative, once they've settled on one, and just as it took months of Bush the Lesser at 30% to figure out he was unpopular, the media loves them some "Obama and the Democrats are toast before the conservative backlash" storyline, no matter how many special elections Democrats win in the meantime.

NPR this morning was talking less about a Republican wave than an anti-incumbent wave. That seems off to me -- Lincoln, for example, couldn't be a more corporate-friendly Dem, and helps the Republicans against her own party. And Critz did represent the Democratic Establishment. It may take a while for the media to get its head around the idea, but the era of the apologetic, weak, Republican-Lite DLC type may finally be over. About time, too.

Posted by: Gregory on May 19, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

As I posted earlier this month, I think that the Tea Baggers are scaring the bejesus out of the "middle". Why hasn't the "Free Liberal Press" been pointing out the "seven-for-seven reality"? Because it's neither free nor liberal. Period. However, if the Dems lose just one of these, just one, the headlines will read: Democrats Running for the hills. All is lost! Obama finished! GOP takes control!. Nausea personified.

The MSM (read: Corporate)would never state the plain facts. They'd rather keep the GOP talking point about the huge wave of gains they are making and how PALINaroundwithterrorists is the "Second Coming". What fun...

Posted by: Stevio on May 19, 2010 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

Yet, in the Louisville Courier-Journal, they lead with the AP writer Charles Babbington's babble about Obama's shirt tails, now, losing four in a row of his endorsed candidates.

However, as a born in Kansas Kansan, may I apologize for Specter being foisted upon the citizens of Pennsylvania. Must be something in the water in Russell, Kansas, for that town to produce both Bob Dole and Specter.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 19, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

And for all that Rand Paul hoopla , did anyone notice that nearly 200,000 more Dems turned out to vote in that "Red " state

http://results.enr.clarityelections.com/KY/15261/25616/en/summary.html

Voter turnout will be the key

Posted by: John R on May 19, 2010 at 9:14 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, Paul's first name is Randal, but, his nickname is Rand. He has put out a video where he discusses the myth of his being named after Ayn Rand, but, does continue by saying how he is very much of a fan of her work.

Posted by: berttheclock on May 19, 2010 at 9:25 AM | PERMALINK

Quote: "I think us pundits in Washington are going to have to revise our thinking about whether this is a wave election year for Republicans."

In what universe do the Beltway Gasbags ever let reality revise their so-called thinking? They have their plot line, their story will track that regardless of any outcomes on the ground. At some point it would be nice if the consumers of news came to the realization that the legacy media are worthless and that lefty blogs give a far more accurate notion as to the direction the country is headed.

Posted by: BillFromPA on May 19, 2010 at 9:27 AM | PERMALINK

Seems obvious to me the establishment,Obama's and Rendell's support were part of the deal to get Arlen to flip. Well worth it as well. I would read zero into that race other then Dems don't like to vote for R's.

Posted by: KK on May 19, 2010 at 9:44 AM | PERMALINK

I noticed that the two Dem candidates in KY got more votes than the Republicans. In fact, the Dem loser, Mongiardo, got more votes than Paul. Is that good news for November, or just a reflection that registered Dems still outnumber Republicans in this conservative state?

Posted by: Jason on May 19, 2010 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

What if the Republicans aren't exactly trying to win?

There are various things one can do with a political party. Winning elections is one of them.

How important is it to Republicans to be ideologically pure and disciplined when it comes to casting votes?

The purity and discipline seems quite important to Republicans.

The GOP seems to be operating from the assumption that the party can't help but win elections in November. If you assume that the GOP will win seats because of backlash against Obama and the Democrats then why show flexibility on the issues?

So, Republicans are willing to do some things to win as long as they don't contradict the more important goal of achieving purity and discipline in the GOP.

And this is what makes them vulnerable.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on May 19, 2010 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

FCUK Politico.

Posted by: JPS on May 19, 2010 at 9:53 AM | PERMALINK

Jason, a lot of us have noticed that the Dems did better in Kentucky than either of the Republicans. That has been explained as being pretty routine in Kentucky, but I wonder. In this case Kentucky Republicans were presented with a really hot primary. One of the hottest in the country. The Republican establishment went all in for Graysen. He barely made a ripple.

Can you imagine the Republican establishment getting behind Rand Paul? He stands for everything they find repugnant. They will give him tepid support at best and a lot of the regulars will sit on their hands. Barring a true fuck up the Democrat will probably win in the fall.

Don't tell Fox News but my own guess is that we saw Rand Paul get just about all the votes he is ever going to get.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 19, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

"And while polls showed Burns with a slight edge going into the election, Critz nevertheless won fairly easily."

Susquehanna had the race at Critz +6%, pretty much nailing it. The difference from PPP and, of course Rassmussen, is that while Susquehanna did ask the "likely voter" questions, they reported the unfiltered numbers and showed the details of likely voters rather than run the top line through a "likely voter" filter and bury the unfiltered numbers.

Critz's internal poll was dead on at +8%. The choice of "likely voter" was demographic and voting record, not a post fudge filter weighing the raw results. This is an excellent example that "likely voter" can mean careful choice of the sample or it can mean "likely voters who think like what I want them to" [ex. Rassmussen]. http://www.scribd.com/doc/30908162/PA-12-Survey-Memo-5-3-10

Polls without analysis of the method are useless. Rassmussen treats their internals as proprietary, so I constantly discount them. Openness about methods is a tenant of the scientific method. The anti-scientific Republicans' favorite poll is Rassmussen.

Posted by: OKDem on May 19, 2010 at 10:12 AM | PERMALINK

"I live in the eastern part of PA, so maybe I'm full of hooey.

That said, winners Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008 have something in common. They are both white. . ."

They were both Viet Nam veterans, too.

The philosophical differences betweend these two candidates were more a matter of degree (if that) than substance. The winner was endorsed by the National Guard Association and this endorsement was prominent in Mark Critz' web site. I suspect that that had some bearing on the vote.

Rep. Murtha was very good to the district and Mark Critz was the front man that everyone knew. His opponent was a local businessman with no attachment to the military, no access to the pork and who appears to be about 25 years old in his ads.

I suspect that Mark Critz simply ran a better campaign and had a leg up on Tim Burns to begin with. I doubt that hatred for the incumbent was a factor here.

These two will run against each other in November as they both won the primaries for their parties.

Posted by: mikeyes on May 19, 2010 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

Ron, I'm trying not to get too cocky. I'm still assuming that Paul is the favorite in Nov. However, it does seem strange to me that Paul got fewer votes than either Democrat, in what is supposed to be the year of the tea-bagger. And the Dem who one is more liberal than the one who lost.

Posted by: Jason on May 19, 2010 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Mikeyes, Critz ran hard against Social Security privatization and the so-called FAIR tax. Burns strongly embraced the tea-baggers. And he lost.

Posted by: Jason on May 19, 2010 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

if there really is TEA (Taxed Enough Already) anger and support for Republican "ideas" (a term I use loosely) to create an anti-Democratic "wave" this fall, perhaps they could explain Arizona voting for more than a billion dollars in new taxes?

Posted by: zeitgeist on May 19, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

you know it's a bad morning for the GOP when drudge's lead story is "WHITE HOUSE BLOCKS CHEF TWEETS"

ouch.

Posted by: ahoy polloi on May 19, 2010 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

you know it's a bad morning for the GOP when drudge's lead story is "WHITE HOUSE BLOCKS CHEF TWEETS"

ouch.

_____________________________________--

It's true, I though you were kidding.

Drudge, what a right-wing douche bag propagandist, he's slightly worse than Faux News/GOP TV.

Posted by: David on May 19, 2010 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

The district had a 2-1 Democrat over Republican party edge and their was a competitive Democratic primary at the top of the ticket. Surprise! The Democrat in the special election WON-who would have thought that

Posted by: Donna on May 19, 2010 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

It's truly delicious that Newt Gingrich has been embarrassed by this election, with a confident prediction of his turning out to be dead wrong.

Hold on, cowboy. Don't you realize that it's impossible to embarrass a dog or Newt Gingrich?

Posted by: Magician on May 19, 2010 at 12:18 PM | PERMALINK

You seem like a bright and probably attractive woman, Donna. Where do you live? Can I buy you a cup of Sanka?

Posted by: Myke K on May 19, 2010 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

[...] where is the wave?" asked Tom Davis

Perma-pressed into y'all's hairdos, that's where.

And, Donna, @11:46. Was the Dem to Repub ratio any different in '08, when the district went for a Repub? Not to mention that all of your blow-dried wave cohorts have been counting their chickens there for weeks. So, yes, it was a bit of a surprise (and the sweeter because of it). But have it your own way; whichever wave lifts your boat, dahlink.

Posted by: exlibra on May 19, 2010 at 12:31 PM | PERMALINK

...perhaps [the TEA party] could explain Arizona voting for more than a billion dollars in new taxes? -zeitgeist

Not to mention those taxes were specifically to fund an education department that the baggers and their darlings would like to abolish.

Posted by: doubtful on May 19, 2010 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

PA-12 shows the GOP needs to adjust, and fast. No more living in Rasmussen World. No more talk of 100-seat swings, no more setting the bar at takeover or bust. Going to be hard to explain to an already fractured base anything short of your expectations in November.

http://bit.ly/befVVJ

Posted by: Yeggo on May 19, 2010 at 8:14 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for this great share, i have found a lot off interesting stuff up here.

Posted by: optimaliseren website on December 28, 2010 at 2:25 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM



buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly