Analysis: Chris Cillizza tries way too hard, misses with his pro-Democrat angle on Tuesday’s Pennsylvania race

Chris Cillizza on Tuesday’s special election in Pennyslvania’s 12th Congressional District, where Democrat Mark Critz beat Republican Tim Burns 53% to 46%:

  • “House Republicans try to stop bleeding from PA special election loss”
  • “House Republicans are trying to quickly pivot away from a devastating loss earlier this week in a Pennsylvania special election”
Yet, later in the same article, Cillizza writes this:  “On Thursday, Public Opinion Strategies pollster Gene Ulm, who handled the survey research for the NRCC in the race, sat down with the leadership team of the committee to explain what had happened and why. (Short explanation: Turnout was driven heavily by the primary races, which were on the same day as the special election.)”  Which seems to acknowledge this:  the extremely-competitive Democratic primary between incumbent Arlen Specter and successful challenger Joe Sestak increased turnout… which would have helped any Democrat in a special election against a Republican on that same day.
“Let’s begin with the political demography of the district. In 2004, George W. Bush won 255 congressional districts. PA-12 was not one of them. From 1994 to 2006, the Republicans held the United States House of Representatives, controlling as many as 232 seats. PA-12 was never one of them. In fact, the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania legislature created a heavily Democratic 12th district in 2002 by moving conservative voters around to generate the Republican-leaning 18th district (currently held by Republican Tim Murphy).”
Cost also writes:
“First, PA-12 had the second-highest number of primary participants, behind only OH-6. This is important because the Pennsylvania presidential primary was closed; one had to be a registered Democrat to vote. This means that there are a lot of Democrats in PA-12. These Democrats are pretty well unionized. After all, this is the district that includes a place named Uniontown! Unionized Democrats in a special election are a force to be reckoned with, to say the least.

Second, even though they did not particularly care for Obama when he faced off against Hillary Clinton, the residents of PA-12 swung behind him reasonably well in the general election. Obama did better in the PA-12 general than he did in any of these other districts. This means that these self-identified Democrats still actually vote Democratic there. That’s in contrast to states like Kentucky and West Virginia, where people who call themselves Democrats have been behaving like Republicans in the last 15 years.”

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