PA-12: Dems Trailing in Special to Replace Murtha

Research 2000 for Daily Kos (4/26-28, likely voters, no trendlines):

Mark Critz (D): 40

Tim Burns (R): 46

Undecided: 14

(MoE: ±4%)

Things are looking tough for Democrats in the race to fill the late Jack Murtha’s House seat, with Research 2000 giving Republican Tim Burns his biggest lead yet. An earlier PPP poll showed him up three points, while interestingly, Burns’s own internal had him back one. Critz’s standing seems to be no fault of his own. He has similar favorables to Burns (44-33 vs. 46-40). The problem is simply that this is a bad district and a bad environment – a toxic combination.

Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district is a socially and culturally conservative place, the kind of area which has steadily been moving away from Democrats for quite some time. While much has been made of the fact that PA-12 was the only CD in the nation to flip from John Kerry to John McCain in 2008, that’s a pretty arbitrary metric. The real story is that it was one of just 35 CDs (out of 435) where Barack Obama got a smaller share of the vote than Kerry did. So while the nation as a whole was voting a whole lot more Democratic, PA-12 took a step in the other direction.

And it shows in two other key poll numbers. Obama’s approval in the district is just 38-55. Just as troubling, only 34% of voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports healthcare reform, while 48% are more likely to pull the lever for someone who advocates repeal. This helps explain why Critz has said he would have voted against HCR, but with this kind of headwind, that may not make much of a difference.

Both parties are seriously contesting this race – the DCCC has spent $472K so far, while the much less flush NRCC has matched them with $482K. Dems have also sent Joe Biden into the district to campaign for Critz. The election is a little over two weeks away (May 18), and undoubtedly it will be fought hard until the very end. But if Democrats’ streak winning special elections comes to an end, it may truly be a case of wrong place, wrong time.

28 thoughts on “PA-12: Dems Trailing in Special to Replace Murtha”

  1. Standard Tekzilla rates apply…

    I can’t see how we hold this.

    I think our competitve primaries will help a little, but I still think this will be a close loss.

    That being said, I think we will be fine in the rest of PA and may even pick up 2 seats there to counter this.

    Does anyone know if PA-12s registration edge is trending Republican or are Democrats still picking up voters even here?

  2. No doubt PA-12 will see a lot more Democratic primary ballots filled out than Republican primary ballots.  And a turnout spike based on that is our biggest hope for getting Critz over the hump.  Because of that turnout model twist, alone, I’m not writing it off at all, especially since it was up-ballot coattails that got Bill Owens over the hump in NY-23 when available pre-election polling said we were toast.

    If Critz does pull off the upset win, the primary turnout will almost certainly be the reason, but it won’t really matter, a win is a win in the metanarrative going forward.

  3. …could we have a complete list, plus a map?  That would be real cool to see.  And I’m guessing what we’d find is those 35 districts are in Appalachia on down into the South, then extending west all the way into Oklahoma.  Maybe a scattered few oddball ones, too, where Obama underperformed Kerry by only a trivial and meaningless margin that amounts to mere statistical noise (I think the NY districts of Peter King and Mike McMahon might’ve been among those).

  4. This district is very typical of those (mostly in Appalachian region, though not limited by that area) districts, which were rapodly trending from Democrats, not to them even in good 2006 and 2008: socially conservative, at most – moderate on ecomomics, heavily white, economically depressed (with lot of “old” industries like steel and coal and few – based in new scirntific achievements and new technologies). rather poor (at least – not well to do), with lot of “Reagan Democrats” and so on. Just like WV-01 we talked recently. So – i expect good Republican showing there. The only things that still attract many people here to Democratic party – memories of the past, some (but not especially liberal) populism and (in some cases and areas) – unions…

  5. I still am skeptical of the Republicans winning this seat.  Maybe it is because I lived in the district before and realize how much the Democrats dominate the state legislative delegation and local offices there.  

    The Democrat registration advantage is still worth something as shown in last fall’s local elections where the Democrats won the judicial races in this district while they were getting their rear ends handed to them pretty everywhere else outside of Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.  Based off the elections last fall, I would actually be more worried about Patrick Murphy.  Fitzpatrick is raising money and a similar rate as Murphy and will not have the top of the ballot drag he had in 2006 with Swann and Santorum, which probably played a large role in Fitzpatrick losing by roughly 1500 votes.

    If I was a Democrat, I would actually be less worried of losing the rural seats like PA-3, PA-4, PA-10 and PA-17 because of fundraising and institutional advantages for the Democrats.  I would be more worried of losing PA-7(which I think is already gone) and PA-8 because they are traditionally Republican, the Republicans got good candidates and they resemble the areas where the Democrats saw a shift against them in 2009.  Remember PA-7 and PA-8 are still dominated by Republicans, albeit generally moderate ones, on the local level.  

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