Lessons From Democrats' Victory in Murtha's District

Many feared the McCain district would go to the GOP

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When Democratic Rep. John Murtha died, many feared that his Pennsylvania district, which John McCain won in 2008, would likely go Republican. So it was a real surprise to see Democrat Mark Critz win Tuesday's special election against Republican Tim Burns. Many pundits have long predicted that Republicans would sweep the 2010 elections and possibly retake the House majority. Does this mean they should reevaluate their predictions? What are the national lessons, if any, of the Democratic victory?

  • So Much for GOP Sweep  NBC News' Domenico Montanaro says this should have been "ripe for the picking" for Republicans. "This isn't a good sign for the GOP in its quest to take back the House in November. Why? Because this was a race that Republicans -- in this kind of political environment -- should have been able to win. ... Remember, back in 1994, Republicans were the ones winning House special elections. But can this be '94 all over again if the Democrats are the ones winning these things -- four straight this cycle."
  • Conservative Activists Fought Hard  The Washington Post's David Weigel calls this "a shock and a disappointment to tea party activists." He writes, "Make no mistake -- conservatives were almost as plugged into this race as they had been in NY-23. The National Action Network, Americans for Prosperity and the National Republican Trust all got involved in the race with on-the-ground aid or advertising. ... Fox News endlessly promoted Burns, Sarah Palin endorsed him, and Newt Gingrich and Scott Brown stumped for him."
  • GOP Went National, Dems Went Local  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder breaks it down. "PA 12 simplified: GOP tried to nationalize the race. Health care, Obama, etc. Democrats localized it (and the Dem candidate ran against Obama). And the DCCC put 200 people on the ground there in the last week. Meaning: Dems can be competitive in races if they run the right candidates the right way. And Republicans aren’t gonna cruise to victory in the fall."
  • Every Election Can't Be National Referendum  The American Conservative's Daniel Larison says GOP strategists "they tend to ignore or dismiss the interests of the specific district where they are competing in order to make a statement about national party agendas. The national GOP wants these elections to be mandates against Pelosi/Reid’s agenda or Obama’s agenda. ... most voters are not interested in vindicating a pre-scripted anti-Obama narrative."
  • Could 'Mark Critz Prototype' 'Save' Dems?  L.A. Times' Johanna Neuman explains, "Democrats believe that in a toxic year for incumbents and despite unfriendly districts, they can win on tactics. The Critz victory -- and it was not even close, with a 53%-45% tally -- suggests they may have a point. ... Maybe all politics really is local. If that's true, Democrats have a chance to keep the House even in an atmosphere of anti-Washington fervor. Especially if Republicans -- at war within over Republican National Committee leadership and 'tea party' passion -- keep thinking this election is about their power instead of the voters' concerns."
  • GOP Must Stem Infighting  Townhall's Carol Platt Liebau worries, "Republicans need to make sure that independents feel they have a reason to get to the polls. Distractions -- like third party candidates -- need to be minimized (yes, I know, as always). And GOP candidates had better realize that it's not going to be a slam dunk win when their opponents are claiming conservative values."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.