Charlie Cook Unfazed By Election Results

Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district was the only district in the nation to flip from John Kerry in 2004 to John McCain in 2008. A quintessentially conservative district, the seat appeared poised to move from red-to-blue after the passing of its longtime Congressman, Jack Murtha.

But something strange happened on Tuesday. Instead of backing the Republican candidate in the race, Tim Burns, voters in the district did what was all-but-unthinkable not all that long ago: backing the Democratic nominee in the special election, Mark Critz -- and not even by a narrow margin, giving him a comfortable 8-point margin of victory.

What did this massive debacle of an election for the GOP, which poured a million dollars into the race (in addition to thousands more coming from conservative activists), do to Charlie Cook's assessment that Republicans are on the brink of regaining control of the House? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Here's the latest from the Cook Political Report, via Marc Ambinder:

Overall, our outlook of a 30 to 40 seat gain for House Republicans remains unchanged.

This is quite remarkable, if you think about it. Not only do the Republicans lose a race they are supposed to easily win (in Cook's words on the eve of the election, "Republicans have no excuse to lose this race") -- but they lose it badly. Yet this result has no impact whatsoever on the view of the Cook Political Report towards the race for the House in 2010? Even Republicans are beginning to second-guess their fortunes.

California Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is in charge of candidate recruitment for the NRCC, conceded that the $1 million-plus spent on the Pennsylvania special wasn’t well-spent.

“That’s a couple different things we’re going to have to analyze, because why does the polling show that we were close the whole time and then it not be close on election night?” McCarthy said on ABC’s “Top Line” program. “That’s a mistake on our part; that’s a mistake on our investment that we have to make a correction to.” [emphasis added]

Former Congressman Tom Davis, who spent two terms as the chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, was even more blunt:

“If you can’t win a seat that is trending Republican in a year like this, then where is the wave?” asked Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, who said Republicans will need to examine what went wrong.

If those at the top ranks of the House GOP's campaign apparatus are beginning to publicly question whether the polling is overstating the strength of the party's position, and a former campaign chief starts wondering "where... the wave" is, might not also one of the leading election prognosticators inside the Beltway do the same? Apparently not.

LATE UPDATE from desmoinesdem: On May 25 Cook published a commentary on the PA-12 special election and its implications for November.

Tags: House 2010, Jonathan Singer, MyDD, Cook Political Report, charlie cook (all tags)



maybe Cook sees special factors

like the competitive Democratic primaries for governor and senator fueling turnout in this district. But even so, Republicans should have been able to keep it closer. He is wrong not to see that this defeat will hurt NRCC fundraising and reduce the number of seats they are able to make a play for in the fall.

I think Republicans were counting on "blah blah blah Nancy Pelosi blah blah blah liberal" to carry the day for them. Nationalizing the election may not work for them in a lot of these districts.

by desmoinesdem 2010-05-21 10:31AM | 0 recs
RE: maybe Cook sees special factors

That's right. Look, I don't think PA-12 means everything -- but how can it possibly mean nothing. Republicans thought they had it. They had a compelling candidate, they spent a great deal of money using the strategy of their choice (attacking Nancy Pelosi), and they were playing in a great district for them -- and yet they not only lost, they lost badly. How can that possibly signal nothing about the midterms?

by Jonathan Singer 2010-05-21 11:13AM | 0 recs
Let them keep raising expectations.

If all of the beltway cocktail party class think that 40 seats is guaranteed for the GOP, when they only win 12 seats, they'll all have a bigger egg on their face. There's nothing like killing high expectations in politics....PA-12 proves that. Victory is sweeter, and recriminations on the losers harsher.

by need some wood 2010-05-21 11:23AM | 2 recs
RE: Let them keep raising expectations.

I still expect them to win 20-30 seats, but the odds of them retaking the House have lengthened. They only have half the cash on hand the DCCC has; that will also be a factor.

by desmoinesdem 2010-05-21 11:45AM | 0 recs
I think it's more accurate

to say that the pundit class over-reacted to the wins by the GOP in New Jersey & Virginia.  This election is not in the bag for the GOP.  I'm sure they'll make gains, but there's a good chance the Dems hold both Houses.  That would be a remarkable achievement for them.

by the mollusk 2010-05-21 02:51PM | 0 recs
They believed the wrong polling


The republicans believed Rasmussen polling and now they see how wrong Rasmussen is polling for them.

by hpg 2010-05-21 03:11PM | 0 recs
RE: Charlie Cook Unfazed By Election Results

Wheneverthings start going south for the CW, the last group to catch on are the people who create it.


Mr. Cook, your party will gain, but not as much as previously thought.

by spirowasright 2010-05-21 06:26PM | 0 recs
charlie cook

This is the same Cook that predicted George Allen to win. It isn't how high the unemployment rate is, it is how the people view the economy and if they feel it is coming back despite the recession the Dems should keep majorities.

by olawakandi 2010-05-22 07:45AM | 0 recs


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