PA-12: Breaking Down the Only Kerry-McCain District

So, the PA-12 special election is tomorrow, occurring in the Kerry-McCain district. Ironically, despite the failure of the Pennsylvania dummymander (the GOP having lost the 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 8th, AND 10th since the 2002 remap and 2004 readjustment), this is yet another district where the GOP’s intentions fell significantly short.

It’s no secret that the 12th is quite the gerrymander, winding its way from Greene and Fayette County in the Southwest, through Washington County, with an arm through Somerset County, a large section of Johnstown and Cambria County (site of John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, no less), another arm to pick up the college town of Indiana, three distinct sections of Allegheny and Westmoreland counties each (!!), and part of Armstrong County.

The 12th, however, is somewhat ancestrally Democratic – this was Joe Hoeffel’s 4th best district in 2004, and turned out strong for Bob Casey. If you average the four federal statewide races since 2004 (Kerry v. Bush, Hoeffel v. Specter, Casey v. Santorum, and Obama v. McCain), the district’s returned on average a Democratic performance of 51.3% to 46.2%.

We can visualize this as follows (click on images for larger versions):

The Democratic strength is concentrated in the southern bulb around Washington and along the Monongahela River south of Pittsburgh, as well as in Johnstown. Of course, connecting the two areas does require passing through some significantly Republican areas.

At risk of falling victim to the “Republican Heartland” fallacy, playing around with my new GIS toys, we can pull some NYT-style map goodness, with graduated circles:

In this map, the sheer Democratic dominance of Johnstown and the Monongahela River towns becomes even more evident.

So what does this all mean for tomorrow? Critz needs to do well in Murtha’s old base in Cambria County, and hopefully stanch some of the Democratic bleeding in the southwestern half of the district.

As with Martha Coakley and Scott Brown, I also made an election-night model to predict results as they come in last night. It uses the similar uniform-swing assumptions (as compared to the 2004-2008 Democratic average) and accounts for possible variation within a given jurisdiction (this is necessary since counties here are much larger than towns in Massachusetts). I’m still fine-tuning the specifics, but expect that online sometime tomorrow afternoon!

27 thoughts on “PA-12: Breaking Down the Only Kerry-McCain District”

  1. I think this is why we keep you around!

    BTW, do you know how Rendell did in the district in 2006 and Jim Eisenhower in 2004?

  2. and West Virginia / Eastern Kentucky made here (or perhaps it was SW PA in general). I don’t know if you have enough info on SW PA to know if the comparisons are valid.

    In other words, while PA-12 is the only “Kerry-McCain” district, there are a number of Appalachain districts that moved more R as the rest of the country moved D in ’08.

    The assumption is that the trend will continue, and I don’t know if it’s valid. However, it seems as if you’d have the data to confirm that (or not).

  3. Not being able to transfer personal popularity to other candidates. If Critz can win here I wonder if the opposite might also be true. Remember that most people in NJ and VA said their vote had nothing to do with the president either.

  4.  I love all these data sets you make. I do know you are involved in making the partisan data sets for Dave’s Redistricting App and it would be great to know what states you got partisan data for, when they should be up on the app or is this a better question to ask Dave? Thanks

  5. Al Gore won this district by 11 points. It was even better for him than the 11th district.

    I goes to show you what happens to the best laid plans. . .

  6. President: Kerry 51.2% – 48.3%

    Senate: Hoeffel 44.9% – 47.5%

    Attorney General: Eisenhower: 52.0% – 46.6%

    Auditor: Wagner 61.7% – 36.0%

    Treasurer: Casey 72.0% – 26.1%

    Ancestrally Democratic indeed.

  7. the further you go down the ballot.   The district is largely represented by Democrats and even the areas represented by Republicans in the state legislature tend to be the Democratic parts of those districts.  I do not have the exact figures, but the Mon Valley portion of the district is almost universally Democratic on the state legislative level.

  8. Just one correction – While a sliver of PA-12 is in Indiana, it does not cross through the town of Indiana, or through IUP.

    But yes, Ryan is correct. The district is generally the same (Without some of the parts in the east) as State Senator Wozniak, who has held that seat for quite some time. Voter registration in Cambria County is nearly 3-1 Democrats. But, as was mentioned before…a lot of these are socially conservative Democrats.

  9. He thinks those numbers measure party performance better than anything other than presidential numbers, because people generally don’t know the names for the obscure-ass downballot races and vote purely based on party ID. But I dunno, that analysis doesn’t seem right to me in the 12th.

  10. Casey Democrats. If Critz wins, its because the Casey Democrats stay within the Democrat fold.  If not, it will be ugly.

  11. after redistricting.  Most of the population deficit is in the central and western parts iirc.  

  12. yeah that one is insane looking.  Now I’m not part of the “all districts have to be squares or circles” mindset, a little bit of flexibility is useful for avoiding the grouping of totally disparate communities, but holy god that is an amazingly nasty district…

  13. Bob Casey Sr’s revenge for being snubbed at the 1992 Democratic National Convention I tell you!

  14. I don’t want to have to raise the point that he wouldn’t endorse the ticket. 😉

  15. Several friends I talked to who go to IUP went out to vote in 2008 and said they were voting for the Shuster race, not the Murtha race. Something got messed up there.

  16. Considering how awfully bad the district looks, it is actually a fairly demographically uniform district.  Even though there are pockets of minorities in places like Washington, Uniontown and Johnstown, this district is almost uniformly rural, blue collar, white with the only distinction being between Protestants and Catholics.  It is an incredibly old district too.  It is a really old district in a generally old state.  Lastly, it is a cultural wasteland.  The lowest high school and college graduation rates of any district outside Philadelphia or Pittsburgh.

    While it lacks geographic sanity, it is demographically very sound.

  17. I am suspecting it will be close, but Critz will win.  This is still a Democratic district when it comes to the right left distinction in state politics.

  18.  When West Pennsylvania was more Democratic, the Republicans made it safe for John Murtha mostly because they wanted to protect the 18th district and also because Murtha was a pretty senior representative and they did not want to kick him out.  

  19. It’s more likely that PA-3 and PA-5 merge together. It would make one gigantic congressional district, but more people have left the PA-5 then have left PA-12. They’re hemorrhaging people up here.

    Also, there’s rain…lots of rain in PA right now. and it’s pretty cold. Expect a low turnout, at least in Western PA.

  20. There’s much more flexibility than I’m used to in showing boundaries and many more types of data visualization (like variable-sized circles, and even dot maps!)

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