Research 2000 for Daily Kos (4/26-28, likely voters, no trendlines):
Mark Critz (D): 40
Tim Burns (R): 46
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.