Several primary and special elections were held yesterday, and almost all of them were looked at as potential omens for the November midterms. At the Washington Examiner, Michael Barone looks at these races and offers five lessons. Here’s one, be sure to click through to read the rest:
Three. The unambiguous 53%-44% victory of Democrat Mark Critz over Republican Tim Burns in the Pennsylvania 12 special election should be a caution to Republicans.
Lesson: anti-Obama sentiment will not automatically be transformed into votes for Republican candidates. Critz carried by solid margins the district’s portions of Fayette and Greene Counties, steel-and-coal areas ancestrally Democratic areas that voted (narrowly) for John McCain in November 2008. Ditto Cambria County, Critz’s home base and that of the late 36-year incumbent John Murtha for whom Critz was a staffer, which gave Obama a very narrow margin.
Critz was helped by his conservative stands on health care, guns and cap-and-trade, he was helped by the refusal of 2008 Republican nominee and primary contender Bill Russell’s refusal to endorse Burns, and he was helped by the fact that there was a serious statewide contest in the Democratic primary but not in the Republican primary. But in November 2008 a lot of registered Democrats here voted Republican. In May 2010 a smaller proportion of registered Democrats did so. It’s true that Republicans don’t need Pennsylvania 12 for a House majority; it’s about number 60 on their list and they need 40 seats. But Republican strategists shouldn’t believe their election night spin. This was a loss.
Personally, the fact that PA-12 kept reelecting a disgusting corruptionist such as Murtha and then elected his toady to take his place tells me there’s something deeply wrong in that district, whatever the weaknesses of Mr. Burns. If they were to consider secession, I might not object.
Barone’s right, however, that this was a loss. However, I think several things mitigate it a bit: aside from the intensity among Democrats generated by the Specter-Sestak primary (and thank you, Joe, for sending Benedict Arlen home) and the fact that Critz “ran to the Right” in a culturally conservative region, the Democrats have a 2-1 ratio in registration. That Critz won by only 9 points (large, but not 2-1 in the vote tally) shows some inroads were made into Democratic territory. So, a loss, but not without hope for November.