So is there really a Republican tsunami on the way? The Democrat's victory in the special election to fill the late Rep. John Murtha's House seat is the first bad news for the GOP this election cycle, and casts doubt on the inevitability of big Republican gains later this year.
Pennsylvania's 12th is an overwhelmingly white, blue-collar congressional district. It went narrowly for John McCain in 2008. This is the kind of swing district Republicans need to sweep in November in order to take back the House. Yet they lost Tuesday (May 18). And it wasn't that close.
Two things about this race are particularly interesting. First, the Democrat, Mark Critz, did everything possible to distance himself from President Obama's agenda. Is that a strategy that can save Democrats all over the country, or is it only a message that a non-incumbent like Critz can employ?
Second, final polls showed this race essentially dead even. All year polls have shown that Republican voters are more enthusiastic than Democrats about voting in this election, giving the GOP a presumed turnout advantage that would tilt close contests toward Republicans. Yet in this race the Democrat overperformed against the final polls and won by a comfortable 8 percentage points, 53 percent to 45 percent. Were more Democrats drawn to the polls to vote in the hot U.S Senate primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak, or is this a pattern that will be repeated in November?
Last year, Republicans won the governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey, and followed it up with Scott Brown's shocking election to the U.S. Senate in Massachusetts. Polling this year has consistently favored Republicans. All signs pointed to a big comeback for the GOP in November. Now the voters have Pennsylvania’s 12th district have said, maybe not.
Like what you just read? Support high quality local journalism. Become a member of Crosscut today!