In Pennsylvania, incumbent reps challenged everywhere

Half and Half

While Pennsylvania has 19 Congressional districts, RealClearPolitics labels only 9 as key races for the 2010 elections, in particular classifying PA3, PA10, and PA12 as toss-ups. Likewise, the New York Times race ratings considers PA3, PA7, PA8, and PA11 to be tossups, even if the rating does not match with their resident FiveThirtyEight prediction models. The unusual discrepancy between the two is not restricted to only House races in Pennsylvania; nevertheless, we will run down all of the districts mentioned above.

Amusingly, the National Republican Congressional Committee had spent $75,000 to poll expressly in the districts that NY Times considers tossups. Notably, the NRCC also purchased ads for those districts.

PA3: Dahlkemper (D) vs. Kelly (R)

Kathy Dahlkemper, the Democratic incumbent, is seeking reelection after 2 years; in 2008 she won against the then-incumbent Phil English; she received 51.5% of the vote, approximately 10,000 more votes than English. Polling data at RCP from AAF/Ayers dating 7/28 – 8/1 indicates a double-digit lead of 14 points by Kelly; a more recent poll by Franklin & Marshall for 9/14 to 9/19 indicates a 6 point lead by Kelly instead.

An aside from the author: The AAF/Ayers results came from a question that attached each candidate’s name to their party (i.e. Mike Kelly, the Republican). Despite 38% of their sample not knowing Mike Kelly and 26% having no opinion of Mike Kelly, the results still polled Kelly 14 points ahead. Likely ‘party brand’ was a factor in how this poll turned out.

FiveThirtyEight predicts a 69% chance of Republican win for PA3. While Dahlkemper has, as of June 30, raised 10 times as much money as Mike Kelly, her voting record (yes for the health care bill, yes for the stimulus package), may count against her. Dahlkemper may be more appealing to the moderates (she’s evaluated as left of center in this study), but her party alignment can do nothing but hurt her for 2010.

Kelly, on the other hand, is carefully vague and therefore this author can only conclude that he is Republican and not much else, although he does not hesitate to separate himself from his ‘party’:

Mike Kelly will oppose the type of Wall Street bailouts that both Republican and Democratic administrations have wrongly passed in the last two years.
– from the Mike Kelly for Congress site

Other points of Kelly on the issues include a lot of what he believes and what he does not believe.

PA7: Meehan (R) vs. Lentz (D)

The incumbent Joe Sestak has moved towards greener pastures. However, it is notable that PA7 had only 2 Democratic representatives since 1939 (one of them being Sestak); prior to Sestak, Curt Weldon held the seat since 1987. In 2006, Sestak won by 8 points; in 2008, by nearly 20. PA7 is considered Democrat-leaning since Obama received 56% of the vote in 2008; the Cook Partisan Index rates PA7 D+3.

Does this mean the district has gone the way of the Democrats? Unlikely. Neither RCP nor 538 have polling data on this district, but RCP places PA7 as leaning Republican and 538 currently considers the district to have a 76% chance of Republican win. Meehan  has raised over $2 million for his campaign; Lentz is trailing behind, with his June 30 numbers indicating he had less than $1 million on hand.

Intrade offers no enlightenment on the status of the election for this district.

Of note is that a random candidate out of nowhere from the American Constitution Party, James Schneller, joined the fray. This author offers condolences for linking to his campaign site.

For more details about Lentz and Meehan, Associated Content has an oddly comprehensive view here.

PA8: Murphy (D) vs. Fitzpatrick (R)

Patrick Murphy, elected to the seat in 2006, voted for yes for the health care bill, yes for the stimulus package, and yes for TARP.

While Murphy was reelected in 2008 by a significant 15 point margin, the results of this race are questionable due to the current political climate. Moreover, the ‘challenger’ Michael Fitzpatrick, is a former U.S. Congressman—of this district. Voters have familiarity with both names.

Franklin & Marshall’s poll shows a 14 point lead in favor of Fitzpatrick; RCP places this district into its leaning Republican category. FiveThirtyEight’s model predicts a 71% chance of Republican win.

However, Murphy has raised over twice as much as Fitzpatrick; Murphy’s voting record may count against him, but this district voted strongly for Murphy in 2008 and gave 54% of its vote to Obama. While the Franklin-Marshall poll favors Fitzpatrick, without more information, PA8 seems likely to go either way.

PA10: Carney (D) vs. Marino (R)

Chris Carney, the incumbent, retained his seat in 2008 with 56% of the vote at an 8 point lead, but McCain carried the district with 54% of the vote. Times Leader/Critical Insights polled just last week with Marino ahead by 4 points, although the results are within the margin for error.

This is yet another district leaning towards a Republican win in November; but the margin of error is narrow enough to consider the future of PA10 uncertain. RCP considers PA10 a tossup, but 538 has PA10 with house takeover chances of 82%.  Carney’s internal polls (warning, there may be bias [in case you need the notice]) show him with an 8-point lead, but that may be cheer leading and a morale boost attempt on his part.

Carney may suffer more because he voted for the health care and stimulus bills; however, he did vote no to TARP, but these are unlikely to be the focus of his campaign.

An aside from the author: perhaps it is a bit unreasonable to expect that these candidates did not come from the same dough and cookie cutter.


Tom Marino comic

Tom Marino: Letters of Permission


PA11: Kanjorski (D) vs. Barletta (R)

Paul Kanjorski is a 13-term incumbent; to say the least having his race in the tossup pile must be unpleasant. Both polls listed at RCP indicate a Lou Barletta lead of 11 points; considering one of the polls was taken after the May primaries and the other in September, PA11 seems to be a sure Republican takeover. FiveThirtyEight has a rather low 62% chance of Republican win in this district, whereas one of the pollsters, Times Leader, writes off the district as won from the moment the primaries finished.

It is particularly telling since Kanjorski faced two opponents in the Democratic primaries that each received 20% of the vote. Furthermore, this same matchup played out in 2008 with Kanjorski only 4 points ahead of Barletta; as unfavorable as the circumstances are for Democrats this election, Kanjorski will likely lose the seat.

PA12: Critz (D) vs. Burns (R)

The author commends you for making it this far.

RCP has PA12 in the tossup list, whereas 538 places it in leaning Democratic and predicts a 55% chance of Republican takeover. Only one poll in the RCP polling data, from the lovely AAF/Ayers, shows Burns with a 4 point lead back in June to August.

Murtha held the district since 1974, and had a 15 point margin of victory in 2008. The district split 49% each for Obama and McCain, the latter winning.

The circumstances of this district is closer to that of two fresh candidates running for the seat; Mark Critz has been in it for less than a year, as the 2008 representative elected, John Murtha, died February 8. Critz, as a result, has no vote recorded for the health care bill, the stimulus bill, or TARP. However, Critz ‘easily defeated’ the Republican Tim Burns in a special election in May, which may indicate his chances for success in the November election.

Essentially, this is round two.

To Close

All of the above elections, save for PA7, are fights against incumbent Democrats. Many of them are only two term representatives, having been part of the wave riding into the House in 2006. What does it signify in a purple state like Pennsylvania if the Democrats are swept from its public offices?

– A.L.

One Response to “In Pennsylvania, incumbent reps challenged everywhere”
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  1. […] the House, I expect many of the Democrats outlined here to lose, minus Carney and Critz. The former seemed to be in the lead going into the election, while Critz […]

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    Pennforge is a group of college kids excited to follow the 2010 elections of Pennsylvania. We hope to highlight the candidates, the issues, and any race drama that may come up. Thanks for following!
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