Philadelphia, Pa.—If Republicans are going to pick up at least the 38 Democratic-held seats they need to win control of the U.S. House and polls are to be trusted, then signs are strong that a good chunk of those seats will come from Pennsylvania.
A review of just-completed polls shows that in six Pennsylvania U.S. House districts now in Democratic hands, Republican candidates are in the lead.
The GOP advantages are in four districts held by Democratic incumbents first elected in either ’06 or ’08, in the 7th District (Delaware County) which Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak left to run for the Senate this year, and—most dramatically—in the 11th District (Wilkes-Barre), which Democratic Rep. Paul Kanjorski has held for the last 28 years.
In what is fast becoming the talk of Keystone State politics, two recent surveys have shown Republican Lou Barletta—Hazleton mayor and a nationally known foe of illegal immigration—leading Kanjorski by handsome margins. One poll conducted for the local Times-Leader newspaper by Critical Insights of Portland, Maine, showed Barletta with a 43% to 32% edge over Kanjorski, while an American Action Forum poll gave Barletta a 52% to 41% lead over the veteran incumbent.
Two years ago, Barletta lost to Kanjorski by just over 1% of the vote—“and it took an appearance by Bill Clinton on the eve of the voting to put him over,” the GOP hopeful recalled to HUMAN EVENTS earlier this year.
“I think this election was determined in the primary,” Jeff Brauer, associate professor of political science at Keystone College in LaPlume, told the Times Leader. “Kanjorski had two opponents in the primary who each received 20% of the vote.”
The polls showing Barletta leading came after a broadside of TV spots produced by the Sixty Plus Seniors Association in which constituents charged Kanjorksi “lied to me” when he promised never to cut Medicare benefits and voted for the Democratic-backed healthcare bill.
The good polling news for conservatives from the other five districts is:
3rd District (Erie County)—Car dealer and GOP nominee Mike Kelly leads freshman Democratic Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper by a margin of 52% to 38%, according to American Action Forum polling. The district had been in Republican hands from 1978 until ’08, when Dahlkemper narrowly unseated GOP Rep. Phil English.
7th District (Delaware County)—With Rep. Joe Sestak stepping down after two terms to run for the Senate, Republican Pat Meehan, former U.S. attorney, leads Democratic State Rep. Bryan Lentz by a margin of 47% to 26%, according to a Fabrizio McLaughlin poll. The 7th was held by Republican Rep. Curt Weldon from 1986 until his loss to Sestak in ’06.
8th District (Bucks County)—Four years after Democrat Pat Murphy unseated Republican Rep. Fitzpatrick, a rematch is being held. The latest Public Opinion Strategies poll shows moderate-to-conservative Fitzpatrick defeating Murphy, best known as an Iraq War veteran who was critical of the Bush policy toward Iraq, by a margin of 48% to 41%.
10th District (Scranton)—Going back to when future Pennsylvania Gov. and UN Ambassador William Scranton was the 10th District’s congressman from 1960-62 until Democrat Chris Carney won it over a scandal-tarred incumbent, this was securely Republican turf. The latest American Action Forum poll now shows Republican and former U.S. Attorney Tom Marino leading Carney 52% to 37%
12th District (Johnstown)—Only five months ago, Democrat Mark Critz, top aide to the late Democratic Rep. John Murtha, won his old boss’s seat in a tight, nationally watched special election. Now an American Action Forum poll shows Republican businessman Tim Burns, who lost to Critz in May, leading him by 44% to 40%.