On Tuesday, most politicos will be fixated on the special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district, the race to fill Democratic Rep. John Murtha’s seat. Everyone from The Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza to the National Journal’s Amy Walter has already weighed in on this race.
Generally speaking, we’re in the camp that believes trying to project the national implications of a special election is about as useful as calling-in to ask Dr. Phil for psychological advice. Even so, we do agree with the consensus across the political spectrum that the race in southwestern Pennsylvania is a must win election for the GOP. Here’s our take on why:
1. PA-12 District Makeup
Residents of this district have a practical, blue-collar mind-set — they are primarily concerned about jobs and hold great contempt for beltway politicking. While Democrats hold a 60,0000 voter registration edge over Republicans in PA-12, this is precisely the type of district Republicans will have to win in other states if the GOP is to take control of the House of Representatives in November.
2. Only CD To Flip From Kerry In 2004 To McCain In 2008
PA-12 is an interesting political animal. As Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball points out, this congressional district was a downright anomaly in 2008. In the last presidential election, McCain picked off this district, though it went for John Kerry four years earlier. If McCain could pick up a win here while losing states that had voted Republican since before Tim Burns was born, this seat is winnable by a GOP candidate (especially one that can actually articulate why he is running).
3. Critz Is Nothing But A Washington Insider
In today’s anti-Washington climate, Mark Critz personifies the Washington establishment. Critz, considered by many to be Murtha’s right hand (or hand in the government wallet, so to speak), is part of the problem, not part of the solution in this narrative. For America to rise from the economic doldrums, Congress is going to need people with experience beyond the beltway. Burns, an entrepreneur and former business owner, is better suited to address the district’s economic woes. If Burns is unable to convince voters that the old way of doing business (pork-barreling, bigger government, higher taxes and unions) is what ails the district, the GOP is going to leave a lot of gains on the table in the fall.
4. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Endorsement
The PA-12 special election to fill the seat for the remainder of the current term is not the only item on Tuesday’s ballot. Each party also will be selecting their respective nominees for November’s general election fight to fill the seat for the next two years. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the liberal rag with the largest daily distribution in the region, has put forth one of the limpest endorsements it could muster: It has endorsed the Democrat, Critz in the special election, but it has chosen to endorse Ryan Bucchianeri in the Democratic primary for the November election. They have essentially tagged Critz as good enough only to keep the seat warm because Bucchianeri “was [more] direct” and forthcoming about his positions on politically controversial issues. If the liberal soapbox of western Pennsylvania concedes that Critz is not their first choice to lead PA-12, the opportunity to win a congressional seat can’t really get any better.
5. Mainstream Media
As Conservatives and Republicans, we know we are fighting an uphill battle when it comes to bias on the part of the mainstream media. Unfortunately, if Tim Burns fails in PA-12, the mainstream media will declare that the GOP is unable to connect with a broad swath of voters in middle America. As summer turns into fall, we certainly don’t want this to be the story line the media peddles.
Ford O’Connell and Steve Pearson are the co-founders of ProjectVirginia and CivicForumPAC