SSP Daily Digest: 1/27

IN-Sen: Wow, for a late-70-something, Dick Lugar’s got a major pair of huevos. He keeps on giving the tea partiers the middle finger despite the great likelihood of a primary challenge, and maybe took that up a notch yesterday, calling the movement out for offering only “cliché” and not being able to “articulate the specifics.”

MI-Sen: You’d expect a poll from Republican pollster Wilson Research to offer worse news for Debbie Stabenow than PPP would, but that’s not the case, as they find wider margins against Peter Hoekstra and Terry Lynn Land. Not that Stabenow should be popping the champagne corks yet, as she’s still in the proverbial danger zone; she beats Hoekstra 47-41 (whom she led by only 1, in PPP’s December poll) and beats Land 46-41. She also sports a definite re-elect of 33%, compared with a “consider someone else” of 36% and 23% definitely “vote against.”

NV-Sen: Well, this is a vague tea leaf that Sharron Angle might be too busy to run for Senate in 2012 as some have speculated; instead, she might be too busy running for President, if her strange visit to Iowa is any indication.

UT-Sen: This is a striking piece of news, considering that the Tea Party Express attacked pretty much every Republican to the left of Jim DeMint in 2010 and seemed to be gearing up for another round in 2012 (with rumors that he was looking into a primary challenge to John Barrasso!). But today TPX’s head, Sal Russo, said that Orrin Hatch, one of the big three teabagger targets among GOP incumbents up in 2012, won’t be a TPX target. He even went so far as to call Hatch “an original tea partier.” Gotta wonder what Russo’s angle is here. This comes only shortly after John Cornyn basically said that Hatch was on his own in the primary, that the NRSC wouldn’t be getting involved on his behalf.

AL-Gov: “Sir” Charles Barkley has been threatening to run for Alabama Governor for seemingly ages, but it seems like the dream has finally died. He says he’s no longer considering it, saying politics is “a bad business right now.” Also, speaking of Alabama, it looks like 2010 gubernatorial loser Ron Sparks has quickly landed on his feet, picking up a job in the administration of the man who defeated him, new Gov. Robert Bentley. Sparks will be the first head of the newly-created Alabama Rural Development Office.

IN-Gov: Today was supposed to be the big decision day for Mike Pence, but we really wound up only getting half a decision (although the other half looks pretty clear, by implication). He said that he won’t be running for President, and that his “heart is in Indiana.” That seems a pretty clear suggestion that he’ll be running for Governor instead, but he stopped well short of actually saying that today, simply saying he’ll decide “later this year” what to do next.

CT-05: Here’s some more movement in the GOP field in what’s the earliest-developing open seat race of 2012. Justin Bernier, who narrowly lost the three-way primary in 2010 (and who’d started in pole position until Sam Caligiuri dropped down from the Senate race), makes it official, saying he’s going to run again. Also, state Sen. Andrew Roraback is talking himself up for the race; he’s loudly touting his moderate credentials, even citing Mike Castle as a legislative role model.

PA-St. House: It looks like the Pennsylvania state House didn’t quite get the memo on civility that was passed around a few weeks ago. Video of the House floor meltdown is available at the link, although as far as legislative riots go, they still have a long way to go before they can rival the Taiwanese.

SSP Daily Digest: 1/19

FL-Sen: With everyone fixated on the three retirements in the Senate in the last week (although the Fix makes the good point this morning that by this point in the 2010 cycle, there had already been four retirements), Bill Nelson seems compelled to point out that he won’t be one of them. In front of as many reporters as possible (at an AP gathering), he confirmed today that he’s running again.

MO-Sen, MO-06: Wow, this is out of nowhere (although I’m not sure whether this is going to have any legs beyond today), but potentially very interesting: Republican Rep. Sam Graves is suddenly expressing some interest in the Senate race, calling it a “great opportunity.” He’s been in the House since 2000 and is chair of the Small Business Committee, so giving that up would be a big move. He may be seeing the diminished likelihood of a Jim Talent run and sensing there’s room for another establishmentarian-type candidate to go against the more tea-flavored Sarah Steelman. (This would open up MO-06 in the state’s rural northwest, which was Dem-held before Graves but has shifted to the right, currently R+7; Dems tried to make it competitive in 2008 and didn’t get any traction.)

ND-Sen: Ready for a whole lot of names of people who might run for Senate? In fact, let me just blockquote the Bismarck Tribune, rather than transcribing it laboriously:

The list of Republicans whose names are being thrown out include Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, Rep. Rick Berg, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, Tax Commissioner Cory Fong, Public Service Commissioners [Brian] Kalk and Kevin Cramer, Sen. John Hoeven’s state director Shane Goettle, GOP state treasurer Bob Harms, and Great Plains Software developer Doug Burgum.

As for Democrats, names circulating include both [ex-state Sen. and radio host]Joel and [ex-AG] Heidi Heitkamp, former state Sen. Tracy Potter, USDA Rural Development Director Jasper Schneider, state Sen. Mac Schneider, U.S Attorney Tim Purdon, Conrad’s state director Scott Stofferahn and former Byron Dorgan staffer Pam Gulleson, former agriculture commissioner Sara Vogel, former state Rep. Chris Griffin, State Sen. Tim Mathern of Fargo, Senate Minority Leader Ryan Taylor and even Earl Pomeroy.

The Bismarck Tribune article also gets a number of these people on record, although their comments are all various degrees of noncommittal. Kent Conrad tipped his hand a bit yesterday, giving nods in the Grand Forks Herald to both Heitkamps, as well as to Schneider. One other Dem who got mentioned a lot yesterday, Roger Johnson (the president of the National Farmers Union) has already said he’s not interested. And in what’s not a surprise, the Tea Partiers aren’t happy with anyone of ’em (although some had some words of praise for Berg), but are still promising to “battle for control.”

VT-Sen: It looks like Republican state Auditor Tom Salmon’s Facebook attacks on Bernie Sanders weren’t just the work of a bored guy at work but, as many speculated, part of a coordinated plan to move toward a run against Sanders; he’s now publicly saying that he he’s interested in the race. Color me puzzled: why would Salmon (who was a Democrat until a year and a half ago) go after an entrenched institution like Sanders in 2012 when he could run for Gov. against Peter Shumlin, who’s just getting situated and won by only a narrow margin in 2010?

KY-Gov: This one gets filed straight to the Department of Foregone Conclusions, but it was made official today: Republican state Sen. president David Williams and Ag Comm. Richie Farmer filed their candidacy papers today, to go up against incumbent Dem Steve Beshear in November.

WV-Gov: We’re getting some pushback/clarification from Shelley Moore Capito’s team regarding claims from gubernatorial candidate Betty Ireland that she wasn’t going to run for Governor; a spokesperson says the only thing that’s off the table is a run in the special election for Governor (which we know now will be held this November). She’s still open to a bid for either Governor or Senate in 2012. Dave Catanese also wonders whether Capito’s timeline is a little longer, i.e. a 2014 run against Jay Rockefeller (or for his open seat, if he retires, seeing as how he’ll be 77 then). It’s also looking like the candidates for November’s special election will be picked by primary rather than by the parties; acting Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, who was the main impediment to a 2011 election until yesterday’s supreme court ruling, says he’s working with SoS (and likely Dem primary opponent) Natalie Tennant to set special primaries in motion.

NY-13: Ex-Rep. Mike McMahon seems to be laying groundwork for a rematch against Mike Grimm, who defeated him narrowly in 2010. He reached out to members of the Staten Island Democratic Association at a meeting last night.

OR-01: Rep. David Wu has always struck people as a little odd (many of you probably remember his Klingons speech), but it seems like something has intensified lately, and it’s starting to come out in the open. It’s been revealed that in the last few months, he’s lost a number of his key staffers amidst complaints about his public behavior, including his chief of staff (who left to join a Rep. with less seniority) and his communications director (who left without having another job lined up, which is even more highly unusual, especially in this economic climate). This chief fundraiser and chief pollster also say they don’t plan to work with him any longer. This is a D+8 district with a robust Dem bench, which is good because this may be a difficult story for Wu to shake, especially given general rumblings of discontent with him that have been building over time.

Mayors: Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter looks like he’s in good shape for his 2011 re-election, according to a new poll from Municipoll. Nutter’s at 47-39 against Generic D primary opponent, wins a three-way primary against Bill Green and Anthony Williams 46-21-18, and wins a three-way against Sam Katz and Williams 44-22-21. Interestingly (though consistent with the original coalition that elected him), Nutter has stronger support among whites (64% favorable) than he does among African-Americans, at 45%. (Nutter is black.) Nutter also just secured the support of the Laborers union. Even further down the weeds in Philly, Republican state Rep. (and, briefly, former speaker) Dennis O’Brien will run for a vacant city council seat in NE Philly. That’s good news, because it might free up his state House seat and make any Dem attempt to retake the state House in 2012 easier, seeing as how his seat is one of the most Dem-leaning seats held by a Republican.

Minnesota: Two stories developing in Minnesota; one, the legal battle over 2012 redistricting has already begun, with Minnesota its first flashpoint. With the GOP controlling the legislature (but not the governorship), Dems have filed a suit seeking an injunction requiring legislators to submit proposed redistricting plans directly to the court (where they’ll probably wind up anyway, regardless of how this suit goes). Also, Minnesota GOP legislators are seeking to emulate their next-door neighbors in Wisconsin in making it more difficult to vote, seeking to push a voter ID bill.

Redistricting: You may remember some Republican laments from a few days ago about the apparent failure of their MAPS program to raise the money needed to coordinate redistricting at a national level; those fears seem to be spreading, including to ex-Rep. Tom Reynolds, who’s spearheading the process for the GOP this year. Part of the problem seems to be that they spent so much money winning control of state legislatures in November that nothing was reserved for coordinating the subsequent redistricting. Nathan Gonzales also previews how state legislators from both parties are currently hunkering down in Washington learning (since many weren’t in office in 2000) the redistricting process from the ground up; in particular, they’re learning the new technologies (like GIS programs like Maptitude), which obviously have come a long way since the last round of redistricting.

Census: Hats off to the Census Bureau, who, just in time to go with their upcoming onslaught of 2010 data, have launched a new and improved version of American FactFinder (the main research tool on their site), a significant improvement over the rather clumsy and unintuitive existing version. I wouldn’t go so far as to call the new version intuitive either, but it makes multi-variable searches and customized maps much easier.

SSP Daily Digest: 7/19 (Afternoon Edition)

AZ-Sen: Sounds like this weekend’s GOP primary, full of barbs and genuinely angry potshots between J.D. Hayworth and John McCain had only one beneficiary: random teabagger Jim Deakin, who didn’t seem to suffer any collateral damge.

DE-Sen: The Susan B. Anthony List has endorsed minor-league primary challenger Christine O’Donnell instead of the pro-choice Mike Castle in the GOP Senate primary in Delaware. Delaware isn’t exactly known for its large social conservative vote share, so it remains to be seen whether this changes anything.

MT-Sen: There have been odd rumors that Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who’ll be looking for something to do starting in 2012, was considering a primary challenge to Max Baucus in 2014, motivated at least in part over their different approaches to health care reform. Schweitzer ruled out running for the Senate, though (also ruling out a possible 2012 seat-swap with Jon Tester, which also had been rumored). The possibility of what he’d do if the septuagenarian Baucus retired in 2014, though, didn’t seem to get broached.

NH-Sen: One more addition to the Mama Grizzly corral, and it’s a big name who’s, well, a woman, but has some competition from her right: Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. Interesting that Sarah Palin refudiated the more teabaggish challengers (Ovide Lamontagne and Jim Bender).

CO-Gov: Scott McInnis is not dropping out and is still in it to lose it, he vows, pressure and polling notwithstanding. He will, however, be repaying that $300K to the foundation that employed him to write and not plagiarize his research papers for them. However, it seems some of his underlings are clearly seeing the handwriting on the wall. Three key staffers (his policy director, political director, and regional director) all announced they were leaving the campaign.

MI-Gov: A Detroit News/WDIV poll (conducted by the Glengariff Group) finds, like everybody else, a very close race in the Republican primary. They have Mike Cox and Peter Hoekstra both at 26, with Rick Snyder at 20, Mike Bouchard at 12, and Tom George at 2. They see a possible route for Snyder to win over undecideds, based on his low unfavorables (he’s at 36/8). Mike Bouchard also has a couple new endorsements to his name, although they’re from the spouses of two once-important politicians: the wives of ex-Gov. John Engler and ex-Sen. Spencer Abraham. The spouse endorsement, of course, is the time-honored method of boosting your behind-the-scenes friend while still not getting your hands dirty wasting political capital on a sure loss (see the Deval Patrick spousal endorsement of Mike Capuano in the MA-Sen primary).

NE-Gov: After much speculation that the Dems were simply going to leave their ballot line blank and let Dave Heineman run unopposed to another gubernatorial term, they’ve found a willing victim candidate to fill the place left by Mark Lakers (who dropped out post-primary but pre-convention). It’s Mike Meister, a trial attorney who lost the 2002 Attorney General’s race.

OH-Gov: John Kasich’s new ad is weak. I know, I know, I’m a partisan, but if this were a Democrat running this ad, I’d be pounding my head on the desk. His first TV spot starts out with him on the defensive, pointing out that he didn’t run Lehman Brothers, just profited handsomely off it.

OR-Gov: Chris Dudley ruffled some feathers over the weekend by ducking the decades-long traditional debate that opens the campaign season in this civic-minded state, held by the Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association. Dudley said that he’d already had plans for a family vacation then, and Democrats predictably said that this was part of a bigger pattern of ducking issues. (Note: don’t piss off the people who buy ink by the bucket. Newspaper e-boards across the state, even the conservative ones, have been scornful.) Then he got really busted: his family vacation just happened to be combined with a visit with the RGA, and its many donors, at an event in Aspen, Colorado. Oregonians aren’t likely to begrudge him for a little downtime, but lying about what he’s doing… not so much.

WI-Gov: This seems a little too convenient. GOP Milwaukee Co. Executive Scott Walker’s staff just gave a no-bid contract for emergency structural engineering inspections to Graef-USA… a contractor that just happens to be a major Walker campaign contributor.

MI-13: There are two new polls that look at the Democratic primary in the 13th, and both give a small lead to Hansen Clarke, over Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick. Clarke leads 38-30 in the Detroit News/WDIV poll, and Clarke leads 44-31 in an EPIC-MRA poll released last week. That’s on top of a third poll from last week that we already mentioned that also had a Clarke lead, so I’m sensing a pattern here. There’s a handful of other candidates, but they’re only polling in low single digits… it seems like having only one credible challenger (Clarke, a termed-out state Senator) to Kilpatrick, instead of two like in 2008, is the key to winning the race.

Legislatures: There are two different stories out today looking at the lay of the land in two legislative chambers that seem among the likeliest to flip to Republican control this year: the Iowa State House, and the Pennsylvania State House, with mentions of some of the most competitive seats in each case.

NRCC: With the House GOP pretty much assured of gaining a significant number of seats this year, it’s been a while since we’ve done one of these. But could it be time for another… Pete Sessions Deathwatch®? Texas GOPer Tom Pauken, a Rick Perry ally who was state party chair in the 1990s, has been talking Sessions down, saying he’s “not up to the job” and he should be replaced by “a smart conservative who knows what needs to be done.” That news comes on a day when NRCC staff are busy doing damage control, mopping up behind Sessions after his comments that “we need to go back to the exact same agenda” of the Bush years.


AK-Gov: Ethan Berkowitz (D) 34%, Sean Parnell (R-inc) 43 53%

AK-Gov: Hollis French (D) 29%, Sean Parnell (R-inc) 57%

AK-Gov: Ethan Berkowitz (D) 36%, Ralph Samuels (R) 48%

AK-Gov: Hollis French (D) 30%, Ralph Samuels (R) 49%

AK-Gov: Ethan Berkowitz (D) 38%, Bill Walker (R) 46%

AK-Gov: Hollis French (D) 32%, Bill Walker (R) 50%

PA-Sen: Joe Sestak (D) 38%, Pat Toomey (R) 45%

WI-Gov: Tom Barrett (D) 44%, Scott Walker (R) 48%

WI-Gov: Tom Barrett (D) 45%, Mark Neumann (R) 43%

Also a must read today: a new piece from Nate Silver makes the point that “Hey, YouGov’s internet-only polling isn’t that methodologically bad,” but that’s by way of comparing it to Rasmussen’s sampling techniques, which (no shock to SSP readers) aren’t likely to produce a very accurate cross-section of the population.

PA-St. House: Legislative Chamber to Watch

Reasonable minds can disagree on what the single most important state legislature this November is going to be, whether it’s from the perspective of affecting redistricting or just from good governance, and whether it’s from the perspective of trying to pin down a Democratic trifecta or prevent a Republican trifecta. If you’d said it was trying to take over the Texas state House, in order to keep the GOP from having a lock on the Lone Star State and forcing something of a compromise map, I’d say that was a great pick. And if you’d said defending the New York state Senate, that’s a great pick too, as controlling the trifecta there going into 2012 will result in a much better congressional map. Holding the Ohio Assembly, picking up the Michigan Senate, or even focusing on California to push those chambers past the 2/3s mark to overcome that state’s ridiculous budget requirements; those are all great too.

But, at least for now, I’ve settled on the Keystone State’s House as the key legislative chamber. With the state Senate not in a position to flip away from GOP control this year, and with the distinct likelihood of losing the gubernatorial race (if nothing else, given the state’s well-documented eight-year itch), holding the state House is the Dems’ last line of defense in the redistricting trifecta, and the best way to make sure that a compromise map is on the table for 2012. Not that the 2002 map worked out that well for the GOP — it turned out to be something of a dummymander that fell apart when a strong wind blew the other direction — but we obviously don’t want to take the chance that they might get it more right next time.

With three vacancies having been just filled via special elections on Primary Day, the Democrats currently control the House by a 104-97 margin. That’s better than the previous 07-08 cycle, where the Dems had a 102-101 edge, but still one where a stiff wind could blow control back in to GOP hands, seeing as how they need to flip only four seats to take control. (You might notice that, at 203 members, this is one of the nation’s largest legislative bodies, although they’ve still got nothing on the New Hampshire House. Constituencies are only about 60,000 residents each, meaning that the races are usually low-dollar affairs dominated by the ground game instead, and by the machines, where they’re present.)

With the primaries having wrapped up, we also have the matchups set in place for November. In addition to that generic stiff wind, here’s one other way Dems are at a disadvantage this cycle: they have a lot more open seats to defend than do the Republicans. Rather than give you one giant table of every single district, I’m going to break them down by category. Most districts aren’t even going to get discussed, seeing as how nearly half of all races — 39 Democratic seats and 46 Republican seats — aren’t being contested by a major party, and how nearly two-thirds of all seats fall outside what I think of as “swing district” territory, i.e. with a Cook PVI between D+5 and R+5. (If you’re wondering how I calculated PVI at this level, Pennsylvania has made available both 2004 and 2008 presidential data for all precincts, so thanks to jeffmd we were able to calculate percentages for all its legislative districts.)

District Rep. PVI Obama/
McCain %
Bush %
’08 House
D/R %
107 Open
R+5 46/52 45/54 100/0 Columbia
137 Open
R+3 51/48 45/53 100/0 Northampton
122 Open
R+1 50/48 49/50 64/36 Carbon
48 Open
R+1 49/49 51/49 100/0 Washington
156 Open
D+2 56/43 50/49 53/47 Chester
114 Open
D+3 56/42 50/48 100/0 Lackawanna
119 Open
D+5 56/42 55/43 100/0 Luzerne
77 Open
D+6 60/38 52/47 70/30 Centre
161 Open
D+6 57/41 55/44 55/45 Delaware
141 Open
D+13 64/35 63/36 100/0 Bucks
194 Open
D+22 73/26 71/28 78/22 Montgomery
195 Open
D+42 93/7 92/8 91/9 Philadelphia

We’ll discuss Republican open seats below the fold, but there are only six of them, compared with twelve Dem seats. There are two bits of good news, though: two of those GOP open seats are in blue districts, compared with four here in Republican-leaning turf, so there may be some offsetting. And more importantly, three of these R+ seats here are in old-school rural Dem areas where there seems to be a sizable Democratic registration advantage, so similar to the PA-12 special election, a conservative Dem might be able to take advantage of the historic Democratic dominance at the local level even as the areas trend away at the national level.

HD-48 is very much a case in point; in fact, it’s in Washington County to the south of Pittsburgh, one of the hearts of PA-12, and its 49/49 split in 2008 and 51/49 split in 2004 very closely mirrors how the 12th (the only Kerry/McCain district in the nation, as you’ve no doubt heard) as a whole broke down. In HD-48, there were 7,488 votes for the various Dems in the primary, while there were 4,461 Republican votes. In addition, in two seats in northeastern coal country, HD-107 had 5,818 Democratic votes for the various candidates in the primary, while there were 4,088 Republican votes, and HD-122 had 6,166 Dem votes and 3,855 GOP votes. The exception among the four is HD-137, which is a more suburban seat outside of Bethlehem in the Lehigh Valley; this area, like many southeastern suburbs, moved rapidly in the Dems’ direction at the presidential level between 04 and 08, but there’s still a historic Republican advantage at the county and legislative level. Even here, though, there were 3,847 Dem votes to 3,439 GOP primary votes.

Now let’s turn to seats that aren’t open, but where a Democrat is sitting in a Republican-leaning district.

District Rep. PVI Obama/
McCain %
Bush %
’08 House
D/R %
83 Mirabito R+12 42/57 36/63 57/42 Lycoming
56 Casorio R+12 37/62 41/59 60/40 Westmoreland
125 Seip R+11 42/57 38/61 56/44 Berks
76 Hanna R+8 45/53 40/60 69/31 Centre
74 George R+8 44/53 41/58 63/37 Clearfield
10 Gibbons R+6 43/55 45/55 55/45 Beaver
54 Pallone R+5 44/55 46/53 100/0 Armstrong
116 Eachus R+5 46/52 45/54 100/0 Luzerne
55 Petrarca * R+5 44/55 47/52 100/0 Armstrong
130 Kessler R+4 49/49 43/56 56/44 Berks
46 White R+3 45/53 49/51 63/37 Allegheny
25 Markosek R+3 47/52 48/52 100/0 Allegheny
72 Burns * R+3 47/50 48/52 53/47 Cambria
13 Houghton R+3 51/48 44/55 48/46 Chester
73 Haluska R+2 48/50 48/51 100/0 Cambria
58 Harhai R+2 46/53 51/49 100/0 Fayette
51 Mahoney * R+2 47/51 49/50 67/0 Fayette
33 Dermody R+2 47/52 50/49 51/49 Allegheny
71 Barbin R+1 51/48 49/51 50/50 Cambria
52 Kula * R+1 48/51 51/48 100/0 Fayette
39 Levdansky R+1 48/51 52/48 53/47 Allegheny

These are, I would expect, for the most part conservative Dems who are well suited to their districts in rural areas or Pittsburgh’s collar counties. Between that and disparities in party strength in some of these counties, most of them have been easily re-elected in the past (see their 2008 totals) or left unopposed. In fact, note that four of them are unopposed this year; these are the ones with asterisks next to their names. This even goes as far up as R+5, where Joe Petrarca drew a pass. (Before we start patting ourselves on the back too much, there are some even more glaring omissions in terms of Republicans going uncontested in blue seats, which we’ll get to later.) Also worth a note, some of the ones who are in swingier districts (like Barbin, Dermody, and Levdansky) were the ones with the really close races in 2008, and may, depending on the quality of their challengers this year, be in more trouble than the Dems in redder districts.

Let’s look at one more table of Democrats, this time ones who are in Democratic-leaning districts but who still had close races in 2008 (“close” meaning a less than 10% margin of victory).

District Rep. PVI Obama/
McCain %
Bush %
’08 House
D/R %
151 Taylor D+4 57/42 52/47 51/49 Montgomery
157 Drucker D+4 57/42 52/48 51/49 Chester
70 Bradford D+5 59/40 53/47 51/49 Montgomery
113 Murphy D+11 65/33 58/40 52/48 Lackawanna
31 Santarsiero D+0 53/46 49/50 53/47 Bucks
50 DeWeese D+3 52/46 55/44 54/46 Fayette

Note that this is a very different batch of counties than the ones in the R+ districts. Most of these Dems are in Philadelphia’s suburbs and were either elected for the first time in either 2008 or 2006, so they’re still getting entrenched in counties where, if you look below the presidential toplines, there are still a lot of historic and organizational advantages for the Republicans. These seats will be a big test of whether these counties continue their decade-long demographic-driven march toward the Democrats, or if the national environment reverses that trend. There’s also one seat here that doesn’t really match: the district of former Speaker Mike Bill DeWeese, in the state’s southwestern corner. DeWeese is an old-timer (in office since 1976) who’s gotten badly tarred with the Bonusgate brush, which probably hurt his 2008 totals and has probably only made things worse lately. Residents of this district probably got saturated with tons of ads from the next-door WV-01 primary, so they too may be primed to be in the mood to rid themselves of a long-time but shady Rep.

Seats where Democrats are on the offense over the flip…

Now let’s look at the open seats currently held by Republicans.

District Rep. PVI Obama/
McCain %
Bush %
’08 House
D/R %
164 Open
D+13 66/33 60/39 0/100 Delaware
131 Open *
D+3 56/42 51/49 48/52 Lehigh
128 Open
R+5 49/50 42/57 48/52 Berks
41 Open
R+7 48/51 38/61 0/100 Lancaster
199 Open
R+12 42/56 35/64 35/65 Cumberland
85 Open
R+13 41/57 34/65 30/70 Snyder
108 Open
R+16 38/61 31/68 23/77 Northumberland

Obviously, there are two big possibilities here, including a D+13 seat that leaves you to wonder what it was doing in GOP hands in the first place. (The answer: HD-164 has been the seat since 1980 of Mario Civera Jr., the ranking Republican on Appropriations, and it’s in Delaware County, which is a historic GOP stronghold that still has a strong local machine even though it’s gone blue at the presidential level.) The D+3 seat, HD-131, is in the suburbs of Allentown, and just became open when GOP incumbent Karen Beyer lost her primary. A little further down, Sam Rohrer (who vacated the seat for his long-shot gubernatorial bid) put up tepid numbers in his 2008 re-election, but that may have more to do with his bad fit with his district (which is the nicer suburbs of Reading, typified by John Updike’s hometown of Shillington, not prime theo-con turf) than this district’s readiness to elect any Democrat.

Here’s the list of the Republicans who are sitting in blue districts. And, as promised, it has some races that went uncontested (marked by asterisks) that will have you wanting to pound your head into the desk…

District Rep. PVI Obama/
McCain %
Bush %
’08 House
D/R %
177 Taylor * D+15 66/33 65/34 41/59 Philadelphia
18 DiGirolamo * D+8 58/40 58/41 33/67 Bucks
162 Miccarelli D+8 59/40 58/41 43/57 Delaware
163 Micozzie D+7 59/39 57/42 41/59 Delaware
176 Scavello * D+7 62/38 53/46 0/100 Monroe
146 Quigley D+5 59/40 52/48 47/53 Montgomery
150 Vereb D+5 58/41 53/47 43/57 Montgomery
61 Harper D+4 57/43 52/48 44/56 Montgomery
152 Murt D+3 55/44 53/47 40/60 Montgomery
169 O’Brien * D+3 53/46 55/44 0/100 Philadelphia
142 Farry D+3 54/45 53/47 48/52 Bucks
172 Perzel D+2 52/47 53/46 34/66 Philadelphia
158 Ross D+1 55/44 48/52 0/100 Chester
167 Milne D+0 54/45 48/51 44/56 Chester
26 Hennessey D+0 55/44 47/52 48/52 Chester
14 Marshall D+0 50/48 52/48 41/59 Beaver
183 Harhart * D+0 53/46 49/50 0/87 Lehigh

So… just to recap, Dems failed to put forth a candidate in a D+15 district in Philadelphia (as well as a D+8 district in lower Bucks County and a D+7 one in the Poconos). Granted, this is in NE Philadelphia, the middle-class old-school white-ethnic part of town where there’s some residual Republican organizational strength, probably left over from the Frank Rizzo area (as seen not just by Taylor’s 59-41 win in 2008 but by the continued presence in the House of his neighbors, former Speakers Mike Dennis O’Brien — also uncontested this year — and John Perzel). Still… that free pass is just lame. At any rate, Perzel, even though he might have the least-blue district in Philly, may actually be the most vulnerable GOP incumbent, if only by virtue of being the most public face of the lingering legislative pay raise debacle that left both parties looking bad.

Finally, here is a handful of Republicans who are from Republican-leaning districts who still managed to have close (i.e. less than 10% margin) races in 2008, who weren’t already accounted for in the blue-district list.

District Rep. PVI Obama/
McCain %
Bush %
’08 House
D/R %
15 Christiana R+4 44/54 48/51 49/51 Beaver
57 Krieger R+10 40/58 41/58 48/52 Westmoreland
187 Day R+7 47/51 40/59 48/52 Berks
75 Gabler R+7 46/52 41/58 47/53 Clearfield

While I don’t presume to know enough about the local dynamics of these dozens of different races to the extent that I can predict outcomes, the disparities in number of open seats, and numbers of Dems in R+ seats vs. numbers of GOPers in D+ seats, suggest that the Republicans will be picking up seats here, although maybe not the net four flips needed to control the House. The real question seems to be how much these races get nationalized, and whether a favorable Republican year in general translates down to districts where there’s a historic Dem advantage (in the southwestern collar counties) or where demographics are moving in a Dem-favorable direction even while the local machinery remains in GOP hands (in the southeastern suburbs). The failure by the GOP to successfully nationalize the PA-12 special election is a good portent, but we’ll have to watch carefully.

UPDATE: By popular request, here’s the entire dataset as a Google Doc.