Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Posts Tagged ‘Charlie Dent’

Pennsylvania Congressional Candidates Underwhelming

In House, Senate on February 17, 2012 at 12:10 pm

The Pennsylvania candidate filing deadline closed this week (Feb. 14), and the word to describe the new crop of congressional candidates may just be “underwhelming.” It appears that both parties have left opportunities to capture districts on the table.

Surprisingly, just one state legislator throughout the entire Keystone State is running for congress: York County Rep. Scott Perry (R) has declared for the lone open seat, that of retiring Rep. Todd Platts in the 4th CD. This, in a state featuring four freshmen Republicans (Reps. Mike Kelly, PA-3; Pat Meehan, PA-7; Tom Marino, PA-10; and Lou Barletta, PA-11), one Democrat member serving slightly more than a term (Rep. Mark Critz, PA-12) and a Republican who had previously been defeated only to rebound in 2010 (Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, PA-8).

No particularly strong Republican challenger stepped forward in the Senate race, where first-term Democratic incumbent Bob Casey Jr. is seeking re-election. After the last election, with a victory in the governor’s race, the addition of five congressional seats, and converting the state House to majority status, the Republicans had high hopes of bringing down Casey. However, with little in the way of political fire power for the 2012 Senate race, Pennsylvania must go down as the Republicans’ biggest national recruiting disappointment.

But it is the Democrats who appear to have failed at the candidate recruiting game for House races. Against Rep. Mike Kelly, who defeated freshman Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper 56-44 percent less than two years ago, only a college professor, an attorney and a defeated candidate are coming forward to run. That’s not to say one of these men couldn’t transform themselves into a strong contender, but the first impression suggests that Kelly is in the driver’s seat.

A bright spot for the Republicans is Lou Barletta, who knocked off veteran Rep. Paul Kanjorski by a full 10 points in a district where the President notched 57.5% two years earlier; Barletta now sees his seat improve tremendously. Under the new PA-11 lines, Mr. Obama would have scored only 47.7 percent. Two Democrats, a pharmacy wholesale store owner, and a defeated state representative candidate are the only ones to file against the new congressman and former Hazelton mayor.

But District 12 is a Republican recruiting disappointment. With Pennsylvania losing a seat in reapportionment, the GOP legislature combined Democratic incumbents Jason Altmire and Mark Critz into a new 12th District that a Republican could win (Obama: 45.2 percent). After recruitment overtures were turned down by state House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, and a local county official, the Republicans will have to settle for 2010 nominee, Keith Rothfus, to go against Altmire. Rothfus only lost 49-51 percent in the last go-around, but his campaign was less than stellar. We’ll see if he steps it up this time around.

Finally, though Rep. Charlie Dent’s Allentown-Bethlehem 15th District improves 3.5 points in the Republicans’ favor, the President still gained an outright majority here, registering 52.8 percent. Dent racked up his largest career re-election percentage in 2010 (53-39 percent) against strong competition, John Callahan, the mayor of Bethlehem. This largely explains why the Democrats are fielding only the Lehigh County Democratic chairman and a former congressional aide.

For a place with so many marginal seats, and one that will be a key presidential battleground state, the congressional elections now appear much tamer than originally anticipated. In the current Pennsylvania political world, this ultimately means good news for the Republicans.

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Redistricting Updates: Illinois, Ohio & Pennsylvania

In Redistricting on December 16, 2011 at 1:50 pm

A quick update on the redistricting front in a few states:

Illinois

The federal three-judge panel in Illinois rejected the Republican lawsuit against the state’s new 18-district congressional map. This means the Democrats’ maximum map will stand and elections throughout the decade will be conducted in these districts. The GOP’s last option is to appeal this decision. All Voting Rights Act cases are appealed directly to the US Supreme Court. The Democrats could gain as many as four seats in the Land of Lincoln next year.

Ohio

The Ohio Republicans were able to secure a two-thirds vote in each house of their legislature to pass their altered congressional redistricting map. The legislation must now go to Gov. John Kasich (R) for his signature. The new plan only slightly changes the Columbus area and leaves the remaining boundaries intact. The state loses two seats in reapportionment.

Three sets of incumbent pairings will occur. Democrats Marcy Kaptur (D-OH-9) and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) will face each other in new District 9 that stretches from Toledo to Cleveland. Reps. Mike Turner (R-OH-3) and Steve Austria (R-OH-7) are paired in new District 10. And, finally, Reps. Betty Sutton (D-OH-13) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) are opposing each other in new District 16. In addition to the pairings, one former member, ex-Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-OH-6), has already announced his intention to seek a re-match with freshman Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH-6) in the revamped 6th District, which will be more friendly to a Republican candidate.

The plan is designed to elect twelve Republicans and four Democrats. The congressional primaries are now re-instated for March 6, as was originally intended. With Texas now almost assuredly moving to later in the year, the Ohio congressional primaries will now be the first in the nation.

Pennsylvania

A day after the proposed Pennsylvania congressional redistricting map was released to the public, it passed through the state Senate, but by only one vote. It must now clear the state House of Representatives and be signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett (R).

The map is designed to elect possibly as many as 13 Republicans in the 18 districts. Seven of the districts are strongly Republican. In five more, GOP incumbents are present, but President Obama carried the particular district in 2008. The five holding the marginal seats are: Reps. Jim Gerlach (CD 6 – Obama: 53), Pat Meehan (CD 7 – Obama: 51), Mike Fitzpatrick (CD 8 – Obama: 53), Charlie Dent (CD 15 – Obama: 52), and Joe Pitts (CD 16 – Obama: 50). In one seat, the new 12th CD that features a pairing of Democratic Reps. Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Mark Critz (D-PA-12), President Obama only tallied 45 percent of the vote, meaning that the winner of what promises to be a tough Democratic primary will also face a highly competitive general election. The Pennsylvania primary is scheduled for May 17.

Suspect PA Senate Numbers

In Polls, Senate on January 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

Public Policy Polling just released new data from their most recent Pennsylvania Senate poll (1/3-5; 547 registered PA voters), but the small size of the sampling universe leads us to question the validity of the results.

The survey shows Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) easily defeating all potential opponents including former Sen. Rick Santorum (R), the man he ousted from the seat in 2006. Though Santorum has made no overt move to seek a re-match, he actually polls the best in the field of potential Republican candidates. Mr. Santorum, however, is the only person in the Republican field who has significant statewide name identification.

What makes the poll suspect, however, is not that it shows Sen. Casey to be performing well — that’s believable, since Pennsylvania still favors Democrats in statewide races (the election of 2010 notwithstanding), and he has not been the focal point of any controversy or scandal during his first term in office. Rather, it is his potential opponents’ favorability scores that seem wildly out of whack.

According to the PPP poll, Casey would defeat Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA-15) 51-31%; Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA-6) 49-33%; Santorum 48-41%; former Lt. Gov. Mark Schweiker 47-34%; and unknown attorney Mark Scaringi, the only announced Republican candidate, 50-27%. For an incumbent re-election race, especially in a situation where the senator is a member of the state’s majority party, these seem to be credible numbers. But, the depicted views of his opponents are not.

In our opinion, the poll’s accuracy factor seriously deteriorates when looking at the potential Casey opponents. Both Republican congressmen, Dent and Gerlach, score very poorly within this sampling universe. Dent gets an incredibly low 6:18% favorability rating, and Gerlach is only slightly better at 9:17%. The fact that 3/4 of the respondents haven’t heard of them is believable, but what could each have done to make them so unpopular?

The answer is nothing, hence, these numbers make little sense. The likely reason for the faulty results is that only 136 members of the polling universe could even identify them. In raw number terms, it is likely that only eight people said something positive about Dent versus just 24 who viewed him unfavorably. These are far below the minimum cell size to accurately forecast a result, especially in a state the size of Pennsylvania. Thus, the poll is trying to suggest that the opinions of 32 people are accurately depicting the feelings of an electorate of almost nine million voters.

Small-sample polling can be tricky because it bases conclusions upon very small pools of data. Though the Casey ballot test numbers certainly are in the realm of the possible, it is unlikely that all of the potential Republican candidates are viewed so negatively, especially when name ID is exceedingly low and their party just scored a big victory. More Pennsylvania polls will have to be taken before an accurate picture of Sen. Casey’s political health can be determined.