Wednesday, October 1, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

A state of (Democratic) wusses

Democrats are likely to blow their chance to re-take the House.

A state of (Democratic) wusses

Congressman Patrick Meehan meets with his staff in his new office. ( Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer ).
Congressman Patrick Meehan meets with his staff in his new office. ( Michael S. Wirtz / Staff Photographer ).

I have to confess, I like my Republican congressman Pat Meehan... as a person. Like most Philadelphia journalists, II've had dealing with Meehan -- former Delaware County DA and U.S. Attorney -- over the years and found him to be a pleasant soul. With his shock of white hair and his imposing bearing, he looks like a politician from Central Casting, and in terms of his philosophy he's maybe the most centrist guy around.

But I hate having Meehan as my representative in Washington, out of the 7th District, which used to coincide mostly with Delaware County but was remapped to KEEP DEMOCRATS OUT and so now looks like a crazy Rorschach test splashed across Philadelphia's western suburbs. He's voted to shutdown the government over nothing and waste $24 billion, to kill Obamacare, and to make John Boehner the Speaker of the House, with all the do-nothingism that comes with that. It's time for a change.

Meehan is the face of a broader trend in Pennsylvania since Republicans were gifted the chance to gerrymander the state's district map after the 2010 census. Today, a state that endorsed the center-left policies of Bill Clinton and then Barack Obama by voting Democratic in every presidential election since George H.W. Bush in 1988 somehow has 13 Republicans in Congress but only 5 Democrats. In other words, the Keystone State is the epicenter of American political gridlock.

But 2014 -- with soaring levels of voter disgust at the GOP's $24-billion-wasting shutdown of the government -- offers a chance to change the status quo:

A new round of post-shutdown polling shows that Democrats not only have an opportunity to take back the House of Representatives next year, but that they could win a sizable majority if voter anger over the shutdown carries into 2014....

Republicans will likely find this third round of surveys to be the most alarming yet, given that the new results show substantial Republican vulnerability in many districts that were not even supposed to be close. Incumbent Republicans trail generic Democrats in 15 of the 25 districts we most recently surveyed. This means generic Democrats lead in 37 of 61 districts polled since the beginning of the government shutdown. Democrats only need to net 17 seats in order to retake the House.

And the bad news for Republicans doesn’t stop there, because in the minority of the 61 districts where Republicans lead in the initial head-to-head question, 11 more Republicans fall behind once voters are informed that the Republican supported the government shutdown and 1 race becomes tied. This means that our results indicate Democrats have pickup opportunities in an astounding 49 of the 61 districts surveyed.

A couple of caveats -- it;s important to note that this survey comes from PPP, a Democratic pollster, albeit one with a decent track record in recent elections. Second, a lot can happen in a year -- voters will never be as mad over the #GOPShutdown as they are now, and Republicans are (presumably) going to do their best to change the conversation.

But if Democrats are ever going to take back the House and get at least a two-year chance to govern again as they did in 2009-10, when they actually passed stuff -- health care reform, the stimulus, and other worthwhile programs -- this is the time. But here's the problem: The Democrats don't have their act together, not in Pennsylvania. They're sure to throw a lot of money at defeating the state's most vulnerable Republican, Mike Fitzpatrick up in Bucks County. But what about the other Republicans who deserve at least a competitive race in this climate -- Reps. like Jim Gerlach, Lou Barletta, or Charlie Dent?

And what about Pat Meehan? The last election. Democrats ran a sacrificial lamb named George Badey, and I've seen no evidence that anything different is in the works for 2014. If Pat Meehan lost his seat, we'd probably be doing him a favor, since he could make a ton more more money as a lawyer or a lobbyist. He'd be fine! Instead, he'll probably go back and cast votes with the Tea Party again and again and again on behalf of the moderate folks he represents. I feel pretty comfortable in saying that because across Pennsylvania voters are unlikely to get what citizens in a democracy deserve: A choice.

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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