The Paths for Kane and Murphy

In a Monday column on the contested Democratic primary for state Attorney General, I lay out some of the issues former Lackawanna County assistant DA Kathleen Kane and former Bucks County Congressman Patrick Murphy are fighting over.

But who has the better chance of winning?

Here, based on background interviews with insiders in both camps and other political strategists, are the paths to victory in next week's primary, and thoughts on who's a better bet in the fall.

Murphy has a clear advantage next Tuesday. His endorsements by labor, NOW and veterans help him. It'll be a low-turnout election so more liberal Democrats are more likely to vote. And they'll remember his early public support for Obama in `08.

Plus, Murphy is better known to Philly and voters in southeastern counties, where there are more registered Democrats than anywhere else in the state.

If he loses, it'll be because other, non-traditional factors take over.

One such factor could be that women voters, angered over a return to issues regarding women's health and contraception, are reminded what a pathetically low number of women hold office in Pennsylvania.

And there's a contested Democratic primary between incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Holden and Scranton attorney Matt Cartwright that will boost turnout in Kane's home base, which is known for loyalty to regional candidates.

Also, voters could decide to think ahead.

The office of AG never has been won by a Democrat, and neither major party has ever nominated  a woman for it. In a presidential year when turnout is higher, a woman candidate for state office in the fall will have an advantage.

In the general, Philly and the southeast will vote Democratic anyway, so Murphy essentially loses the geographic edge he has in the primary. His liberal cred, such as leading repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," won't play as well in a general election in Pennsylvania as it does in the primary. And having hometown Scranton U.S. Sen. Bob Casey also on the ballot will pump up turnout in the northeast, benefitting Kane.

And while newcomers to politics such as Kane tend to make mistakes in big elections, the freshness of a Democratic woman for an office never won by a Democrat or a woman will make up for minor stumbles. And the Republican candidate, Cumberland County DA Dave Freed, never ran statewide either.

So Murphy's seen as better-positioned to win the primary, but Kane today is seen as a stronger candidate come the fall.