What the Special Elections Will Mean

Hotline editor Amy Walter tells us what the parties will learn from two upcoming special elections in May--the contests for Hawaii's first congressional district and Pennsylvania's 12th.

The May 18 Hawaii election will determine who holds President Obama's childhood district (well, until November at least), and the May 22 Pennsylvania contest (which hasn't received as much attention, nationally) will serve as a petri dish for popular attack angles from both parties, as Democrat Mark Critz faces off against Republican Tim Burns. Walter writes:
Polls continue to show that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Congress are about as popular as athlete's foot. But thus far Republicans haven't been able to turn this into a winning message for the GOP in Pa.-12. Despite the NRCC's attempt to tie former John Murtha staffer Mark Critz to Pelosi and the health care vote, there's little evidence that it's getting much traction.

Meanwhile, Democratic attacks on Republican candidate Tim Burns as a "millionaire businessman" who supports outsourcing jobs seem to be sticking. This may be the year of the "outsider," but there's a difference between an outsider and an awkward fit. And in this blue-collar district, where jobs are the biggest issue, any charge of shipping jobs overseas is going to be taken very seriously.

See Walter's National Journal column for a full breakdown of the national trends and dynamics at play in the races.