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The DCCC wants us to watch PA-12

I've been picking up signs of Democratic optimism about the special election in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District, which was left vacant by the death of John Murtha (D). A quick rundown:

- This is the only district that the Cook Political Report has moved toward the Democrats in the past month -- a "lean GOP" rating was softened to "tossup."

- Public Policy Polling, a North Carolina firm, released a survey Monday showing Republican candidate Tim Burns leading Democratic candidate Mark Critz by only one point, 48 to 47. I noticed some conservative blogs reporting that Burns had "moved into the lead," but that result actually represented a six-point bump for Critz and only a four-point bump for Burns since the last poll.

- Critz, while not burdened with a surplus of charisma, has made no significant gaffes and has worked his ties to Murtha (he was his district director) as hard as they could have been worked. He is not, in other words, Martha Coakley.

- Labor and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have concentrated their resources in the district, especially after the DCCC threw in the towel on the Hawaii 1st District special election, which was hopelessly twisted by local politics. And the presence of the heated Democratic primary between Sen. Arlen Specter and Rep. Joe Sestak on the ballot, in this district where Democrats outnumber Republicans two to one, gives Democrats hope that they'll shrink the enthusiasm gap -- "tea party" voters will be matched by Democrats who've been targeted by three campaigns.

So it's a battle of fairly green tea party activists and an NRCC that has not won a Democratic seat since, I think, 2001, against union and DCCC get-out-the-vote efforts. That explains the memo released to the news media by the DCCC, titled "PA-12 is the Only Republican Vs. Democratic Election Tomorrow." Read it after the jump.

PA-12 is the Only Republican Vs. Democratic Election Tomorrow

Independent Analysts Say PA-12 is “Must-Win” for Republicans

As House Republicans continue to make predictions of winning 45, 100, 130 or more seats this fall, it’s important to remember that only one election tomorrow features a Republican versus Democrat: PA-12 (Murtha-open)

The NRCC has spent $958,897 -- one tenth of their cash on hand -- and nine (9) shady outside groups have spent more than $445,000 to defeat Democrat Mark Critz. Republican Committee Chairman Michael Steele guaranteed victory for Republican Tim Burns.

PA-12 is the only district in the country that Senator Kerry won and President Obama lost. According to non-partisan political independent analysts, PA-12 is exactly the type of district that House Republicans need to win this cycle.

· Charlie Cook, Cook Political Report: “Republicans have no excuse to lose this race. The fundamentals of this district, including voters' attitudes towards Obama and Pelosi, are awful for Democrats. And Democratic party registration advantages here are just as obsolete as GOP's advantages in Upstate New York were last year. Timing is no excuse for Republicans either. This special election, not the competitive statewide Democratic primaries held the same day, will be driving turnout on May 18th. With both candidates and party committees plus some outside groups likely to be up on air with full buys between now and the election, there will be far more dollars spent per vote on the PA-12 race than on the Senate or gubernatorial primaries.” [Cook Political Report, 4/27/10]

· Chris Cillizza, Washington Post: “Both sides see the race as a must-win but, in truth, it is a muster-win for Republicans who have to prove they can emerge victorious in seats like this one -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried it in 2008 -- to make a reasonable case that the majority is in play this fall.” [Washington Post, 5/13/10]

· Stuart Rothenberg, Rothenberg Political Report: “The special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th district is a far more important event, since it’s a head-to-head contest in a Democratic part of the state…Republican Tim Burns is about as strong a candidate as Republicans could have hoped for.” [CQ Politics, 5/12/10]

· Amy Walters, National Journal’s Hotline: “In some ways, PA-12 seems to be a must-win for Republicans. After all, if they can't win the only district in the country that voted for both John Kerry and John McCain, what does it say about their ability to win other GOP-tilting seats this fall? Republican donors and members cut NRCC chairman Pete Sessions a lot of slack after the losses in New York-23 and -20. Will they be as forgiving if he comes up short once again?” [National Journal, 5/11/10]

· David Wasserman, Cook Political Report: “David Wasserman, of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, said that Republicans have a good chance to pull out a victory in the Keystone State. “They have been fumbling special elections for a long time, but Pennsylvania ought to be different. This is a place where President Obama’s approval rating among Democrats is at 50 percent,” Wasserman said.” [The Hill, 4/27/10]

· Professor Stephen Medvic: “Franklin and Marshall political science Professor Stephen Medvic pointed out the wind is at the GOP’s back: “All the excitement is on the Republicans. If the Republican wins, not that big of a shocker. If the Democrat wins it will be better news for the Democrats than the Republican winning would be for Republicans.”” [The Hill, 4/27/10]

By David Weigel  |  May 17, 2010; 7:14 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Election  
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