The final votes hadn’t even been counted last night when CNN’s GOP media consultant Alex Castellanos was already attempting to throw cold water on Democrat Mark Critz’s victory in Pennsylvania’s 12th District.
The win means very little, Castellanos argued, given that Critz campaigned against Obama’s health care bill.
Talk about some desperate spin.
First off, Critz isn’t exactly anti-health care reform. While he says there are shortcomings in the recently-passed bill, he wants to fix them, rather than repeal the bill and start over. Much to the consternation of Republicans. Read more here.
The election to replace Democratic icon John Murtha in Pennsylvania was the only head-to-head race yesterday. It’s a district that McCain carried over Obama. As the Washington Post notes, it’s the archetypical swing district, a “must win” for Republicans hoping to win back the House in the fall:
The [National Republican Congressional Committee] has spent $958,897 — one tenth of their cash on hand — and nine (9) shady outside groups have spent more than $445,000 to defeat Democrat Mark Critz. Republican Committee Chairman Michael Steele guaranteed victory for Republican Tim Burns.
PA-12 is the only district in the country that Senator Kerry won and President Obama lost. According to non-partisan political independent analysts, PA-12 is exactly the type of district that House Republicans need to win this cycle.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s independent analyst Charlie Cook:
Republicans have no excuse to lose this race. The fundamentals of this district, including voters’ attitudes towards Obama and Pelosi, are awful for Democrats.
And here’s National Journal’s Amy Walters:
If [Republicans] can’t win the only district in the country that voted for both John Kerry and John McCain, what does it say about their ability to win other GOP-tilting seats this fall?
Republicans predicting a GOP tidal wave in the midterm elections have in fact now lost the last two special Congressional elections, in Pennsylvania and Upstate New York.
Critz won, as the LA Times reports, not just by presenting himself as an outsider, but by focusing on creating jobs, jobs, jobs, and on stopping the out-sourcing of American jobs. His opponent, Republican Tim Burns, lost because he tried to nationalize the election — to make it an anti-Pelosi vote — instead of focusing on the district’s woes. (Read more from Politico, which asks this morning: “Where’s the wave?”)
Meanwhile, also in Pennsylvania, Joe Sestak outflanked Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter from the left. Sestak, a consistently reliable liberal who among other things favors gun control (Specter tried to make an issue of Sestak’s support for an assault weapons ban), won, as E.J. Dionne notes this morning, by knitting together an impressive left-right coalition.
To get a sense of Sestak’s sweep, consider that he carried all but three of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. He carried Obama strongholds – he got 63 percent in Lancaster County, for example – but also swept through smaller counties in the central and western parts of the state that had supported Clinton.
My cousin Nate, who works for the Sestak campaign, believed Sestak could upend Specter, a three-decade titan of the Senate, back when Sestak was down 20-points in the polls. “We’re gonna do it!” Nate texted me yesterday, as he worked in and around Philadelphia to get out the vote. Kudos to Nate — and all those who worked hard to elect Sestak.
There is much hard work ahead for Democrats, who surely have uphill battles across the country with unemployment hovering near 10 percent. But let’s also learn something from Pennsylvania 12, and from Nate’s commitment and irreducible optimism: we can win, in the fall, even in places where our opponents guarantee we can’t; our message and values still resonate.
There’s only one thing left now to do. In the immortal words of Philadelphia heroine Adrian Balboa: Win.