Democrats are starting to sweat the May 18 special election in Pennsylvania’s 12th District:
In what was the late U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s western Pennsylvania district . . . Democrats watch nervously, hoping his former top aide can hold on to the House seat. . . .
A loss would unnerve Democrats, who face the backlash against the party in power typical for a midterm election year, and depress the outlook for the party’s other candidates in Pennsylvania, which Barack Obama won easily in 2008. . . .
Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey says the fact that Democrats have had to spend big money to defend this previously safe seat “shows the big problem Democrats face, which is a decided lack of enthusiasm among their own base in the face of overwhelming enthusiasm among Republicans and independents. That’s exactly what has them panicked.” There was low turnout in this Tuesday’s Democratic primaries in North Carolina, Indiana and Ohio, which could indeed be a harbinger of bad news for Democrats in PA-12.
As I pointed out last week, Republican Tim Burns has portrayed his Democratic opponent Mark Critz as a henchman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a theme Burns hammered home in a debate Wednesday night in Johnstown:
“Nancy Pelosi’s not trying so hard to get [Critz] elected because he’s a nice guy.”
During the debate, my Pennsylvania friend Chris Renner took note of a telling moment: Critz signaled to the debate moderators that he was out of water. Seeing this, Burns graciously handed his own bottle of water to Critz, who seemed rattled by the gesture and dropped his pen.
Why would Critz be so nervous? Well, for one thing, he’s attempting to run away from the Democratic label, and so he can’t exactly call in big-name Democrats like Pelosi or Barack Obama to headline campaign rallies. Meanwhile, Burns is bringing GOP superstars to the district: Monday, House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence will campaign for Burns, and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is coming May 14. And Burns has the added boost of hundreds of Tea Party volunteers coming in from around the country to help with the final campaign push.
Despite these GOP advantages, however, PA-12 is still a horserace — Burns with 43% and Critz with 41%, according to a National Republican Congressional Committee internal poll cited by Jim Geraghty, who notes this interesting data point: Among the 40% of survey respondents who could “blindly” name the May 18 election date (i.e., without prompting), Burns has a 7-point advantage.