Politics: Campaign 2012

Charlie Cook Predicts Unemployment Projections Will Not Look Good for Obama

Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
June 7, 2011, 8:40 p.m.

Con­duc­ted 10/1-5; sur­veyed 1,129 adults; mar­gin of er­ror +/- 2.9% (re­lease, 10/7).


- All Dem GOP Ind 9/14 8/24 S. Pal­in 22%/48% 6%/73% 44%/22% 21%/44% 21%/46% 23%/40%

Do You Think Pal­in Would Have The Abil­ity To Be An Ef­fect­ive POTUS?

- All Dem GOP Ind 4/12 Yes 22% 8% 39% 22% 26% No 64 81 45 64 63

(For more from this poll, please see today’s CBS NEWS story.)

Though lar­ger cit­ies will send more voters to the polls, none in Pennsylvania’s 12th Dis­trict has the same his­tory of in­flu­ence as John­stown. The city has seen bet­ter days, but it is still the un­of­fi­cial cap­it­al of the 12th Dis­trict, and wheth­er John­stown re­tains some of its his­tor­ic­al clout will de­term­ine the out­come next week of the mem­ber-versus-mem­ber Demo­crat­ic fight between Reps. Jason Alt­mire and Mark Critz.

The latest in­carn­a­tion of the 12th Dis­trict snakes west from John­stown and the sur­round­ing area to Beaver County along the Ohio bor­der, passing through Pitt­s­burgh’s north­ern sub­urbs. Alt­mire hails from this re­gion, and he brings more of his cur­rent con­stitu­ents to the newly re­dis­tric­ted seat — more than 450,000, nearly two-thirds of the dis­trict’s total. Critz’s John­stown base, in Cam­bria and Somer­set counties, brings far few­er sup­port­ers to the con­test.

That ad­vant­age should be enough to power an Alt­mire vic­tory, if he can hold serve with his own base. But the vic­tors in the two mem­ber-versus-mem­ber House primar­ies thus far — in Illinois and Ohio — won not only by run­ning up the score in their home ter­rit­ory, but by pre­vent­ing their op­pon­ents from win­ning as dra­mat­ic­ally on their turf. John­stown’s de­clin­ing but long-stand­ing polit­ic­al in­flu­ence in south­west­ern Pennsylvania has made Alt­mire wary of seem­ing too ag­gress­ive in Critz’s neigh­bor­hood, leav­ing an open­ing for Critz to rack up big mar­gins in that sec­tion of the dis­trict.

Alt­mire may claim more of the new 12th Dis­trict, but the seat has be­longed to John­stown for dec­ades. A John­stown res­id­ent has rep­res­en­ted the city in Con­gress con­tinu­ously since just after World War II. Be­fore Critz, it was his ex-boss, con­stitu­ent-ser­vices le­gend John Murtha, who held the seat from 1974 un­til his death in 2010. Murtha had re­placed a 24-year vet­er­an Re­pub­lic­an, John Saylor, who was a stu­dent in John­stown’s pub­lic schools and then city so­li­cit­or be­fore com­ing to Con­gress.{{ BIZOBJ (photo: 16953) }}

John­stown might be more than 180 miles from Wash­ing­ton, but its re­la­tion­ship with the na­tion’s cap­it­al has long been closer than that. Giv­en the com­fort of his struc­tur­al ad­vant­age, Alt­mire has been mind­ful of up­set­ting that spe­cial re­la­tion­ship too brusquely. “I know their mem­ber of Con­gress has al­ways been a res­id­ent of John­stown,” Alt­mire said. “I’m try­ing to in­tro­duce my­self in a way that doesn’t ap­pear like I’m try­ing to knock out their con­gress­man. That’s not what it’s about.”

Alt­mire has gone about that task partly by fo­cus­ing less on Cam­bria and Somer­set, pre­fer­ring to shore up his size­able base to the west. Critz must erode Alt­mire’s sup­port to win the primary, and Alt­mire con­sciously chose not to push as hard in Critz’s neck of the woods, be­cause he doesn’t have to. “When I’m in those areas, I’m very cau­tious,” Alt­mire said.

But the num­ber of voters Critz has to peel off in Alt­mire’s ter­rit­ory is dir­ectly re­lated to how big a mar­gin Critz can squeeze out of the John­stown re­gion, and his cam­paign plans to make every voter count there. Critz’s team pre­dicts primary turnout to be around 25 per­cent dis­trict-wide, but they want to boost Cam­bria County’s turnout to about one-third to set up a path to vic­tory.

Mean­while, Critz and his uni­on al­lies will work to erode Alt­mire’s sup­port in the rest of the dis­trict. The most re­cent WPXI-TV/Pitt­s­burgh Tribune-Re­view sur­vey shows Alt­mire with his nar­row­est-ever  lead, 43 per­cent to 39 per­cent. Critz’s show­ing in the poll was built on a found­a­tion of 80 per­cent-plus sup­port in Cam­bria and Somer­set, but it also sug­gests he has made in­roads in the rest of the dis­trict by ques­tion­ing Alt­mire’s loy­alty to key Demo­crat­ic Party and labor prin­ciples, hold­ing Alt­mire un­der 60 per­cent in Al­legheny and Beaver Counties, which have the bulk of the dis­trict’s un­de­cided voters.

Critz’s strategy mir­rors that of pre­vi­ous mem­ber-against-mem­ber primary vic­tors this year. Marcy Kaptur de­feated fel­low Demo­crat Den­nis Ku­cinich in Ohio’s 9th Dis­trict on the back of 94 per­cent of the primary vote in her home base, Toledo’s Lu­cas County. By con­trast, Ku­cinich could “only” man­age three-quar­ters of the vote in Clev­e­land’s Cuyahoga County. Weeks later, Rep. Adam Kin­zinger, R-Ill., beat Rep. Don Man­zullo by sweep­ing the south­ern counties of their 16th Dis­trict by more than 80 per­cent. Mean­while, Kin­zinger held Man­zullo to 72 per­cent in Win­nebago County, Man­zullo’s base and the dis­trict’s biggest in­di­vidu­al prize.

But Kaptur had a struc­tur­al ad­vant­age, hav­ing rep­res­en­ted nearly half her dis­trict be­fore. Like Critz, Kin­zinger star­ted with the dis­ad­vant­age of hav­ing rep­res­en­ted only some 30 per­cent of the new dis­trict, but Man­zullo brought slightly less than a ma­jor­ity of his old con­stitu­ents with him to the merged-seat race. Alt­mire brings a much more se­cure two-thirds to Pennsylvania’s 12th Dis­trict, which is why he de­cided to fo­cus on his own ter­rit­ory in his cam­paign.

That ini­tial mar­gin presents a much high­er bar for Critz to clear to win this primary. As a res­ult, Critz’s strategy in­cludes hold­ing Alt­mire to much lower totals, un­der 60 per­cent, in Alt­mire’s base counties.

But be­fore Critz’s cam­paign looks west for those res­ults next Tues­day, the race will turn on wheth­er the smal­ler John­stown area can give him a chance by punch­ing above its weight. The city has got­ten used to send­ing one of its own to Con­gress, and old habits die hard in West­ern Pennsylvania.

What We're Following See More »
Trump to Begin Covering His Own Legal Bills
1 days ago
Steele Says Follow the Money
1 days ago

"Christopher Steele, the former British intelligence officer who wrote the explosive dossier alleging ties between Donald Trump and Russia," says in a new book by The Guardian's Luke Harding that "Trump's land and hotel deals with Russians needed to be examined. ... Steele did not go into further detail, Harding said, but seemed to be referring to a 2008 home sale to the Russian oligarch Dmitry Rybolovlev. Richard Dearlove, who headed the UK foreign-intelligence unit MI6 between 1999 and 2004, said in April that Trump borrowed money from Russia for his business during the 2008 financial crisis."

Goldstone Ready to Meet with Mueller’s Team
1 days ago

"The British publicist who helped set up the fateful meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a group of Russians at Trump Tower in June 2016 is ready to meet with Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller's office, according to several people familiar with the matter. Rob Goldstone has been living in Bangkok, Thailand, but has been communicating with Mueller's office through his lawyer, said a source close to Goldstone."

Kislyak Says Trump Campaign Contacts Too Numerous to List
1 days ago

"Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak said on Wednesday that it would take him more than 20 minutes to name all of the Trump officials he's met with or spoken to on the phone. ... Kislyak made the remarks in a sprawling interview with Russia-1, a popular state-owned Russian television channel."

Sabato Moves Alabama to “Lean Democrat”
2 days ago

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.