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August 20, 2014

Posts in "Pennsylvania"

August 7, 2014

Rating Change: Pennsylvania Governor

Time is running out for Tom Corbett, the Republican governor of Pennsylvania.

The incumbent’s ballot-test poll numbers have been mired in the 30s for months. The latest public poll, an automated survey by Magellan Strategies BR for Keystone Report, showed the governor trailing Democrat Tom Wolf 50 percent to 38 percent.

In fact, it appears the last public survey that showed Corbett above 40 percent was almost exactly a year ago. An August 6-8, 2013, poll for Democratic Rep. Allyson Y. Schwartz showed her leading Corbett 49 percent to 41 percent.

The worst part about Corbett’s standing is that it doesn’t appear things are headed in the right direction. Full story

July 28, 2014

So You Want to Be a Political Handicapper? 2014 Edition

The thought of three candidate interviews over a four-hour period invariably fills me with dread.

The chance of all three congressional hopefuls being thoughtful, reasonable and personable — and having a good chance of winning in the fall — is relatively small.

But sometimes the unexpected happens. And on July 16, I had the pleasure of interviewing three quality candidates. Full story

July 18, 2014

GOP Can’t Catch a Break in Congressional Baseball Recruitment

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Democrats won the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game again this year. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Phil Berger Jr.’s loss in Tuesday’s Republican runoff in North Carolina’s 6th District was about more than an establishment favorite getting knocked off by an anti-establishment challenger.

He could have been a key player for Republicans in future Roll Call Congressional Baseball Games.

According to multiple sources, Berger was expected to infuse the Republican Conference with some talent in next year’s 54th Annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game. He was even talked about as a potential pitcher.

The GOP needed it, considering Democrats are on a six-game winning streak. This year, Democrats defeated Republicans, 15-6. Full story

May 15, 2014

Democrats Wield Abortion Rights as Campaign Weapon in Primaries, Too

One party is using abortion as wedge issue in races all across the country — and it’s not the Republicans.

Abortion rights is a critical part of Democrats’ pitch to women in swing districts and states in general elections. But now some Democratic candidates from Maine to Hawaii are using choice as a key issue in primaries as well.

Last week, EMILY’s List and NARAL-Pro Choice America celebrated their coordinated attack on state Rep. Brendan Boyle in Pennsylvania’s 13th District. The week before, state Sen. Daylin Leach released a television ad against Boyle featuring a handful of women taking Boyle to task. Full story

May 13, 2014

The Most Influential Losing Congressional Candidate in the Country

University of Illinois professor George Gollin forced one of Democrats’ top recruits to spend a few hundred thousand dollars to win the primary. Now Gollin is popping up in other House races hundreds of miles away and potentially causing problems for more top recruits.

Earlier this year, Gollin spent nearly $500,000 in the Democratic primary in Illinois’ 13th District, running from the left, including a blistering attack ad against former Madison County Judge Ann Callis, the preferred candidate of strategists in Washington. Full story

May 5, 2014

Beware of the Surprise House Primary Losers

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(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Rep. Mike Simpson looks like he’ll survive the epic establishment vs. anti-establishment struggle in the GOP primary in Idaho’s 2nd District. But if last cycle is any indication, the incumbents that lose primaries this year will be in low-profile races rather than high profile battles between outside groups.

In 2012, Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt was caught off-guard in her March primary. The Republican congresswoman was in Washington, D.C., the night she lost to now-Rep. Brad Wenstrup back home in the 2nd District.

“Her unexpected loss serves as a warning for many members seeking re-election on new turf after redistricting or facing even the smallest political challenge,” wrote Roll Call’s Shira T. Center and Amanda Becker in a post-primary piece. “More importantly, Schmidt’s loss signals a still-unsettled electorate looking for a reason — any reason — to boot an incumbent from office.”

Apparently not every member reads Roll Call. But they should.

Three months later, Oklahoma Republican John Sullivan lost his primary to Jim Bridenstine in the 1st District. Sullivan wasn’t completely shocked on Election Night, but he admitted to the Associated Press that he ignored the race for too long. Even though the race engaged in the final days, it wasn’t a national race by any stretch of the matter.

Then, two more months later, Florida Rep. Cliff Stearns lost the Republican primary to large animal veterinarian Ted Yoho. It was a legitimate surprise to national race watchers and to the congressman, who had $2 million sitting in his campaign account when he lost.

Texas Democrat Silvestre Reyes also lost his primary to Beto O’Rourke. But that race received some national attention because former President Bill Clinton came to west Texas for an event for the congressman. And The Campaign for Primary Accountability, which received a disproportionate amount of national media attention, made Reyes a top target.

Pennsylvania Democrat Tim Holden’s primary loss wasn’t a surprise either, particularly if you read Shira’s piece the week before. Republican mapmakers had redrawn his district, giving him new, heavily Democratic territory in Northeast Pennsylvania, far from his Schuylkill County (Pottsville) base. He was unknown in much of the new district, which no longer resembled the politically competitive district he had represented.

I should note that I did not include a group of eight members who lost in primaries because they lost to fellow incumbents because of redistricting. Each of those races was well-covered and it was inevitable that one incumbent was going to lose.

So before Tuesday’s primaries in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio, it’s possible that an incumbent such as Republican Rep. Walter B. Jones could succumb to his challenger. [Read Emily Cahn’s Roll Call story and Peter Hamby’s CNN story for a primer.] But it seems more likely that a member will lose in a race that no one is talking about yet.

April 8, 2014

Meet 3 Divergent House Candidates Worth Watching

While some observers of politics apparently are only interested in statistical models that predict electoral outcomes, I have always thought that candidates matter — both during campaigns and, particularly, when the victorious arrive in Washington, D.C.

In fact I have found interviewing congressional candidates one of the most rewarding parts of my job. Last week, I interviewed three credible hopefuls in three interesting races: California Republicans Steve Knight and Jeff Gorell, and Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh.

Full story

March 5, 2014

Democrats Have Primaries, Too

Every six minutes, some reporter in the world is writing about a Republican primary. That’s not to say that GOP primaries don’t matter — because sometimes they do — but there are a handful of Democratic House primaries that could have general election ramifications as well.

Here is a look at five Democratic primaries to watch, in order of primary date:

Illinois’ 13th District
Primary: March 18

Democrats are looking to complete their sweep in Illinois by winning the 13th District this fall. Party strategists are ecstatic that former Madison County Judge Ann Callis is running, but she must win the upcoming March 18 primary before focusing on GOP Rep. Rodney Davis.

Callis had $517,000 on hand at the end of December. But University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana physics professor George Gollin had $265,000 on hand thanks in part to a $165,000 candidate loan, and he had a small TV ad buy during the Winter Olympics.

Democrats can’t afford to take the primary for granted. Callis is up with her second TV ad, but still is being outspent on the air, according to Emily Cahn’s Roll Call story. If Gollin wins the nomination, Democrats might punt until the next presidential election.

Illinois’s 13th District is rated Toss-Up/Tilt Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Pennsylvania’s 6th District
Primary: May 20

Democrats have spent the last decade trying to defeat GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach in the 6th District outside Philadelphia. But now that he is retiring, Democrats have to sort out their own May 20 primary before focusing on the general election.

Some Democratic strategists believe businessman Mike Parrish, a former Republican, has the most crossover appeal in a district that Mitt Romney won with 51 percent in 2012. But physician Manan Trivedi announced he is running again after losing to Gerlach in the last two elections.

Parrish raised a quick $100,000 before the end of the year. But Trivedi raised and spent $1.3 million in each of the last two races and built an initial name identification advantage. The Democratic nominee will likely face Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello in the general election.

Pennsylvania’s 6th District is rated Lean Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

Pennsylvania’s 8th District
Primary: May 20

Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Kevin Strouse was one of Democrats’ earliest recruits of the cycle. He entered the 8th District race in the Philadelphia suburbs nearly a year ago, and the DCCC added him to its Jump Start program for prized recruits. But that doesn’t guarantee Strouse the Democratic nomination, particularly since he didn’t make the initial Red-to-Blue list this week.

Strouse faces publishing company owner and chemist Shaughnessy Naughton in the May 20 primary. Shaughnessy had $177,000 in the bank as of Dec. 31 (compared to $472,000 for Strouse), but she also has the support of EMILY’s List.

The Democratic candidates can’t afford to spend too much on the primary, considering GOP Rep. Mike G. Fitzpatrick had $1.3 million on hand at the end of the year and has maintained consistently favorable polling numbers — even though he represents a potentially competitive district.

Pennsylvania’s 8th District is rated Republican Favored by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

California’s 21st District
Primary: June 3

The Central Valley-based 21st District was the site of one of Democrats’ worst disasters of the 2012 cycle when they failed to get a quality candidate through the top-two primary. Last cycle’s Democratic candidate, John Hernandez, is running again, and one Republican poll had him leading establishment favorite Amanda Renteria for the second slot against GOP Rep. David Valadao.

Democratic strategists believe Renteria is in better shape than that, but she can’t take the June 3 primary for granted. She had $257,000 on hand at the end of the year while Hernandez has yet to file a report with the Federal Election Commission. But Renteria will likely to spend some of that money, at least on direct mail and not necessarily television, to secure her place in the general election.

California’s 21st District is rated Toss-Up/Tilt Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

New Mexico’s 2nd District
Primary: June 3

At the beginning of the cycle, Democratic strategists identified New Mexico’s 2nd District as trending in their direction, as the Hispanic population continues to grow. The thinking was that GOP Rep. Steve Pearce would be vulnerable in four or six years, that is, until former Eddy County Commissioner Roxanne “Rocky” Lara entered the race.

Democrats believe she is the right candidate to win the seat this year and added her to the committee’s Jump Start program last year and its Red-to-Blue program this week. But the scenario is likely dependent on Lara winning the June 3 primary over attorney Leslie Endean-Singh. While Lara entered the race in September, Endean-Singh had a five-month head start and $93,000 (including more than $50,000 in personal loans) in the bank at the end of December.

New Mexico’s 2nd District is rated Currently Safe Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.

January 14, 2014

Rothenberg’s Dangerous Dozen Open House Seats

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McIntyre is retiring, giving Republicans a strong opportunity to pick up his House seat in North Carolina. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

I wrote my first Dangerous Dozen open House seats column in this space 14 years ago, so I figured I might as well keep the streak going, though it isn’t nearly as impressive as Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

As in my Jan. 17, 2000, column, the districts are listed in order of vulnerability. “All of the races on the list currently are worth watching, but I’ve concluded that the races at the top of the list are more likely to change party control than those at the bottom,” I wrote back then. The same applies now.

Utah’s 4th District (Jim Matheson, a Democrat, is retiring.)

Barack Obama received 41 percent of the vote in this district in 2008, but only 30 percent in his bid for re-election. No Democrat will begin with Matheson’s goodwill or moderate record, making the district impossible to hold for his party. After November, Republicans will control all four of the state’s House districts and both Senate seats. Full story

January 6, 2014

Ratings Change: Pennsylvania’s 6th District

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Gerlach is leaving Congress. (CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When it comes to open seat opportunities, Democrats are being handed all the right seats, but they might be coming at the wrong time.

Rep. Jim Gerlach is the latest Republican to announce his retirement in a competitive congressional district. Democrats have coveted Pennsylvania’s 6th District — along with districts such as Iowa’s 3rd, Virginia’s 10th, New Jersey’s 3rd and Florida’s 13th.

Just a couple of months ago, Democratic strategists would not have dreamed that all of those seats would open at the same time. But the midterm election dynamic, which could turn against President Barack Obama and his party, could dampen some of their enthusiasm. Full story

November 1, 2013

The Most Vulnerable Governor in the Country

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Corbett is seeking re-election in 2014 in the Keystone State. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

There is still a year until the midterm election, but Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is in very serious jeopardy of losing re-election in 2014.

The Republican governor’s polling numbers continue to sag. According to a new survey, conducted October 22-27 by Franklin & Marshall College, just 19 percent of registered voters gave Corbett an excellent or good job rating, while 39 percent said “only a fair job” and 37 percent gave him a poor rating. Just 20 percent said he deserves re-election and 25 percent believed Pennsylvania is headed in the right direction.

That’s just the latest in a series of polls over the course of the year that have showed Corbett with slumping job ratings, poor personal image with voters and often trailing in general-election ballot tests. Full story

October 9, 2013

Pennsylvania House District Falls Out of Competitive Ranks for Now

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Critz will not try to come back to Congress in 2014. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It only took three years for Pennsylvania’s 12th District to go from a safe Democratic seat to a safe Republican seat.

The legendary late Rep. John P. Murtha, a Democrat, represented the district for more than 30 years, but his tenure also masked a cultural shift in southwest Pennsylvania. Even though Democrats were able to hold the seat briefly after his death, Republican-led redistricting helped pull this seat into the GOP column, where it looks like it will remain for at least the near term.

Democrat Mark Critz, one of Murtha’s top aides, won a high-profile special election in May 2010 and was re-elected that November. But GOP legislators subsequently made the seat more Republican and Keith Rothfus defeated Critz, 52 percent to 48 percent, in 2012. Full story

August 29, 2013

What Happens When Political Spouses Misbehave?

Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has endured weeks of negative headlines as The Washington Post thoroughly examines his relationship with a campaign donor. But as the investigation moves along, his wife, first lady Maureen McDonnell, is coming under increased scrutiny as well.

Depending on the level of the Virginia governor’s involvement and legal jeopardy, his future political career is uncertain. McDonnell is prohibited from seeking re-election this fall but he was on the outskirts of the 2016 presidential discussion before the scandal broke. And he might have the opportunity to run for the U.S. Senate over the next decade, if he so chooses.

If the first lady ends up taking more of the blame for accepting gifts, Bob McDonnell wouldn’t be the first politician with a spouse in legal trouble. Here is a quick look at a few politicians and how their spouses’ legal problems affected their political careers. Full story

July 10, 2013

RATINGS CHANGE: Pennsylvania Governor

It’s not very often that the party out of power encourages the incumbent to seek re-election, but that’s the case in Pennsylvania.

Republican Gov. Tom Corbett’s polling numbers have sagged to the point where Democrats are excited about their opportunity but nervous he will retire, thereby allowing state Republicans to find a potentially stronger nominee. Full story

July 9, 2013

Top 5 Races to Watch in the Mid-Atlantic

A lone competitive Senate race in West Virginia and a few competitive House seats set the stage in the Mid-Atlantic region next year.

The bad news for Democrats is that the early list of top House races contains just one district in Pennsylvania. They would likely need closer to a handful of competitive House seats in the Keystone State, a traditional battleground, to get back to the majority after 2014.

Here are the top five races to watch in the Mid-Atlantic region next year: Full story

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