Tonight political junkies will be closely monitoring the Sestak-Specter race in PA’s Democratic primary, by all accounts a close one, made more interesting by the rise of Sestak, a favorite of many progressive Dems. The added complexity of Specter’s party-switching, along with rain in Philly, however, make it problematic to divine a broad trend with November implications. Instead, pundits are calling the PA-12 congressional race the more interesting bellwether, pitting Democrat Mark Critz and Republican Tim Burns in a close contest for the late John Murtha’s congressional seat.
PA-12 is a predominantly white working class district with a Cook Partisan Voting Index score of R +1, the only congressional district in the nation that voted for Dem presidential candidate John Kerry in ’04 and GOP nominee John McCain in ’08. It’s being called a must-win for the Republicans, but Democrat Critz is running a good campaign — a Talking Points Memo Poll Average has Burns at 43.0 percent compared with 42.4 percent for Critz.
As Christina Bellantoni reports at TPM,
If Democrats keep that seat in a battleground district, they think that bodes well for this fall…”If the bottom were really falling out the GOP should be walking away with this race,” a Democrat close to the White House told me. Given the district demographics, the tough year for the majority party and the president’s diminished approval ratings, Republicans have a great chance at a pickup, the source said. “Even if it’s close it’s a good sign for us.”
Bellantoni also quotes former Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA), “They should win this election today…If the Republicans don’t win this I think they have to look mechanically at what they’re doing.”
Critz is getting lots of love from Democratic leaders, including Bill Clinton, who campaigned for Critz. The DCCC reports that Critz is being outspent by Burns more than 2-1, but the Democrat is still hanging tough. If Critz wins, or even loses by a close margin, it will be a good sign that, contrary to GOP spin, the white working class of 2010 is not jerking its knees for Republicans just yet.