Midterms and the Key­stone State

Daily Times (Primos, PA) - - OPINION - By G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young


That num­ber has been seared into the brains of po­lit­i­cal ob­servers dis­sect­ing the cru­cial 2018 con­gres­sional midterms. Twenty-three is the num­ber of House seats Democrats must win to gain con­trol of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Cur­rently, the na­tion’s lead­ing po­lit­i­cal prog­nos­ti­ca­tors, Larry Sa­bato’s Crys­tal Ball, Nate Sil­ver’s FiveThir­tyEight and The Cook Po­lit­i­cal Re­port, think that is more likely to hap­pen than not.

Most be­lieve that if it hap­pens, Penn­syl­va­nia will play a ma­jor role. If na­tional Democrats are to re­gain power, the road runs through Penn­syl­va­nia.

This prom­i­nent role for Penn­syl­va­nia vot­ers is a new one in midterm elec­tions. Usu­ally a “bat­tle­ground state” in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, the state has been more of an as­ter­isk in the midterms. Un­til re­cently the state’s con­gres­sional map over­whelm­ingly fa­vored Repub­li­can can­di­dates, al­low­ing the GOP to cap­ture 13 of the state’s 18 con­gres­sional seats.

But that changed rad­i­cally when a re­drawn con­gres­sional map put into ef­fect by the state Supreme Court made Penn­syl­va­nia’s con­gres­sional dis­tricts much more com­pet­i­tive.

As the tra­di­tional La­bor Day start of cam­paign­ing be­gins, a clear pat­tern now ex­ists across the state of “safe” Repub­li­can seats, “safe” Demo­cratic seats, and seats that could go ei­ther way.

For Democrats, their deep­est strength lies in the south­east­ern part of the state, in­clud­ing the city of Philadel­phia and its subur­ban coun­ties, Bucks, Mont­gomery, Delaware and Ch­ester. Repub­li­can strength is lo­cated in the ru­ral and small-town por­tions of Penn­syl­va­nia, con­cen­trated in the western and south­cen­tral parts of the state. All to­gether Repub­li­cans ap­pear to have nailed down some six seats, while Democrats look solid in an­other six seats, and the re­main­ing six seats look com­pet­i­tive.

Safe Repub­li­can Seats

Th­ese char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally are seats with a large ma­jor­ity of reg­is­tered Repub­li­can vot­ers. They typ­i­cally were car­ried by Don­ald Trump in 2016 by wide mar­gins. Most are in cen­tral and western Penn­syl­va­nia.

PA 9th - This is an open seat but the 85th most Repub­li­can seat in the na­tion. The Repub­li­can can­di­date, Dan Meuser, is vir­tu­ally guar­an­teed a win.

PA 12th - In­cum­bent Tom Marino is a solid fa­vorite in what is the 57th most Repub­li­can dis­trict in the na­tion.

PA 13th - The Repub­li­can can­di­date, John Joyce, is an over­whelm­ing fa­vorite in this race in an­other solidly Repub­li­can dis­trict, la­beled the 27th most Repub­li­can in the na­tion.

PA 14th - This is an­other strong Repub­li­can dis­trict con­sid­ered to be the 92nd most Repub­li­can in the na­tion. Repub­li­can Guy Reschen­thaler should win eas­ily.

PA15th - This is the 38th most Repub­li­can dis­trict in the na­tion. Repub­li­can can­di­date, Glenn Thomp­son, al­ready an in­cum­bent from a su­per­seded dis­trict, will win com­fort­ably.

PA 16th - The dis­trict is con­sid­ered the 100th most Repub­li­can dis­trict in the na­tion, where Repub­li­can can­di­date and in­cum­bent Mike Kelly should win.

Safe Demo­crat Seats

Th­ese char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally are con­gres­sional dis­tricts with a large ma­jor­ity of reg­is­tered Demo­cratic vot­ers in dis­tricts car­ried eas­ily by Hil­lary Clin­ton in 2016. Most are in eastern Penn­syl­va­nia.

PA 2nd - This over­whelm­ing Demo­cratic dis­trict, partly in the city of Philadel­phia, is the 44th most Demo­cratic dis­trict na­tion­ally. Brendan Boyle, the Demo­crat in­cum­bent, should win with at least 75 per­cent of the vote.

PA 3rd - This is the third most Demo­cratic dis­trict in the na­tion and in­cum­bent Dwight Evans won his pre­vi­ous race with some 90 per­cent of the vote. He will do so again in 2018.

PA 4th - This mostly af­flu­ent Mont­gomery County dis­trict is rated the 150th most Demo­cratic in the na­tion. Demo­cratic can­di­date Madeleine Dean should win with 60 per­cent or more of the vote.

PA 5th - Demo­crat Mary Gay Scanlon will win this Delaware County dis­trict eas­ily. Con­sid­ered the 103rd most Demo­cratic dis­trict na­tion­ally, it is one that Clin­ton won de­ci­sively in 2016.

PA 6th - Demo­crat Chrissy Houla­han should win this dis­trict for­merly rep­re­sented by Repub­li­can Ryan Costello, who is not run­ning for re­elec­tion. It is one of the Repub­li­can held dis­tricts Clin­ton won and has been in­tensely tar­geted by Democrats in 2018.

PA 18th - Rated as the most 106th most Demo­cratic dis­trict na­tion­ally, Demo­crat Mike Doyle, the most se­nior mem­ber of the Penn­syl­va­nia del­e­ga­tion, is un­op­posed for re­elec­tion.

The Toss-up Seats

Th­ese dis­tricts are scat­tered around the state largely away from the eastern Demo­cratic strongholds or the western Repub­li­can dom­i­nated ar­eas.

PA 1st - Repub­li­can in­cum­bent Brian Fitz­patrick is fa­vored here to eke out a nar­row vic­tory in this Bucks County dis­trict with a slight Repub­li­can lean. A sub­stan­tial blue wave Mary Gay Scanlon will win the Novem­ber elec­tion in the 5th Con­gres­sional Dis­trict “eas­ily,” our colum­nists pre­dict.

would, how­ever, en­dan­ger him.

PA 7th - Demo­crat Su­san Wild is prob­a­bly slightly ahead in a dis­trict with a small Demo­cratic tilt. Clin­ton de­feated Trump by one point here. Demo­cratic turnout this year could de­ter­mine the out­come.

PA 8th - This is one of 13 Demo­cratic held dis­tricts na­tion­ally won by Trump in 2016. It leans slightly Repub­li­can in voter regis­tra­tion. How­ever, Demo­cratic in­cum­bent Matt Cartwright is very pop­u­lar and should win if any siz­able Demo­crat wave ma­te­ri­al­izes.

PA 10th - In­cum­bent Repub­li­can Scott Perry should win here, but re­dis­trict­ing put plenty of new Demo­cratic vot­ers in his dis­trict while his Demo­cratic op­po­nent Ge­orge Scott is run­ning a well-or­ga­nized and fi­nanced cam­paign. Demo­cratic turnout will mat­ter here.

PA 11th - In­cum­bent Repub­li­can Lloyd Smucker is con­sid­ered vul­ner­a­ble by some, but the dis­trict re­mains strongly Repub­li­can. This is an­other Penn­syl­va­nia dis­trict where it will take a sub­stan­tial blue wave for the Repub­li­can to lose.

PA 17th - This is one that Trump won nar­rowly. It also has a Repub­li­can in­cum­bent (Keith Roth­fus), and it’s the only dis­trict in the na­tion that pits two in­cum­bents against one an­other. Demo­crat Con­nor Lamb is lead­ing the race, but the dis­trict has a Repub­li­can tilt.

Most an­a­lysts be­lieve Penn­syl­va­nia Democrats need to add a net of 3 -5 seats to change party con­trol of Congress. In late sum­mer 2018, this looks doable. But Repub­li­can hopes are far from for­lorn. Bar­ring any sur­prises, al­most a third of th­ese races are still in doubt

And there are sur­prises.

“As the tra­di­tional La­bor Day start of cam­paign­ing be­gins, a clear pat­tern now ex­ists across the state of ‘safe’ Repub­li­can seats, ‘safe’ Demo­cratic seats, and seats that could go ei­ther way.”

— G. Terry Madonna and Michael Young


G. Terry Madonna is pro­fes­sor of pub­lic af­fairs at Franklin & Mar­shall Col­lege, and Michael Young is a speaker, poll­ster, au­thor, and was pro­fes­sor of pol­i­tics and pub­lic af­fairs at Penn State Univer­sity. Madonna and Young en­cour­age re­sponses to the col­umn and can be reached, re­spec­tively, at terry. madonna@fandm.edu and dr­mike­ly­oung@ com­cast.net.


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