In a diary last month, Steve Singiser made the case for why Democrats should run in every race.
But whether the district is winnable or not, it makes sense for Democrats to grind hard to fill out the entire card. Here are just a few of the reasons why:Not only did I agree with his analysis, but in a comment I added my own additional reasons Democrats should always have a viable candidate running.
1. Never underestimate the ability of GOP primary voters to mess the bed.
2. Thinning the playing field plays into the hands of the Republicans.
3. You simply never know when a wave is going to build.
Nevertheless, in a majority of Pennsylvania's Republican-held districts, there's no Democrat running at all.
It's no wonder, though.
In 2012, Pennsylvania voted for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney 52.0% - 46.6%. Going by this percentage, the PA U.S. House Representatives should be 9-10 Democrat vs. 8-9 Republican.
Despite this, Democrats only hold 5 of 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, or 27.8% - 72.2%.
This disparity can largely be explained by some of the most aggressive gerrymandering in the country.
Given this, it may seem very far fetched to think Democrats could pick up any more than a couple of those currently-Red districts.
However, there are a few factors that make me think that this is not so far-fetched, that Dems could possibly pick up 4 of those Republican seats this year, perhaps even more.
First of all, let's look at how the US House Districts fared in the 2012 Presidential Election:
A pickup of 4 Republican-held seats would mean an equal delegation of PA US Representatives, with 9 Democrats and 9 Republicans.
The problem again comes to the gerrymandering, but as we shall see later on, perhaps it's not as much of a problem as initially thought.
Now, in a normal off-year election, a 2% edge in those red districts may actually be plenty comfortable of a gap for the incumbent to safely win re-election. For example, look at Dailykos Election's recent House ratings. Only PA-06 and PA-08 are considered Lean/Likely R; all other PA districts are rated Safe Democrat or Safe Republican. And to their credit, there are Democratic challengers in those districts at least.
So why should Democrats run candidates in those remaining Safe Republican districts?
For Pennsylvania in particular, I think what Singiser says about waves may play an important role.
If a wave does develop, in either direction, a critical side effect of that wave is seats that have been completely stricken from the list of competitive seats for years become races to watch. One must think that the Republicans are quite grateful that they lucked out and had Blake Farenthold running in what was viewed as solid blue territory in heavily Latino South Texas. His defeat of veteran Rep. Solomon Ortiz had to be considered one of the biggest upsets in recent House history. And an election like that can only happen in a wave election. Absent that GOP wave of 2010, Farenthold gets smooshed, like pretty much every Republican that had come before him in the long tenure of the Democratic incumbent.Singiser also points out how incredibly difficult it is to predict when a wave will hit, so you are free to come up with your own conclusions.
But, as the cliche goes, you can only win if you play. It's tough to find candidates that may, for all intents and purposes, be sacrificial lambs. But, every now and again, the long shot pays off. And in order to turn minorities into majorities, or bolster majorities that are narrow and tenuous, it is beneficial to a political party to put those long shots into play.
However, these are the reasons I think PA Dems should plan for, or better yet, lead the 2014 Democratic wave:
1. Tom Corbett's low approval ratings.
It's no secret that Corbett is one of the most disliked incumbent Governors in the country, and things like this not going away probably aren't helping him. If Democrats across the state can truly harness this animosity for Corbett, unleashing an electorate the likes of which an off-year election rarely sees, not only can they hopefully reclaim the Governor's mansion, but Democrats throughout the ballot will likely be riding some hefty coattails.
2. The Affordable Care Act, and the Medicaid expansion.
As many people believe and I agree, as Obamacare starts to deliver on providing affordable health care and Republican doomsaying fails to materialize, people will start to see it as a definite good thing. And faced with Republicans who threaten to undo all that good, people will come to the polls to prevent that from happening.
Juxtaposed with the positive effects that Obamacare is having in the states that embraced it, Pennsylvania Republicans refused to set up a state health exchange or expand Medicaid. Regardless, even in PA, people are enrolling in affordable healthcare that they wouldn't have without Obamacare. Obamacare may very well be the crown jewel that Democrats sorely need to bring the voters to turn out, and to vote for them. Especially if Medicaid expansion is still on the table, but only if Democrats take control of the state legislature. As the beneficial results of Obamacare start to reach the voters - which is highly likely by the time November rolls around - it will be plain to see on which side Republicans fall.
3. Backlash against onerous Republican Tactics.
In Pennsylvania, Republican political stunts are rubbing many voters the wrong way. From the voter ID laws, to the Republican-engineered government shutdown, Pennsylvania voters may well show up to make the GOP pay for their underhanded and costly political tactics. Sam Wang - who calculated that if the elections were held in the midst of the shutdown, Democrats would retake the House - offers an explanation for how the shutdown could potentially put Republican-gerrymandered districts into play:
It is a common fallacy is to believe that seats gained by partisan gerrymandering are safe seats. In fact, the converse is the case. Gerrymandering achieves a net gain of seats by packing the opposition party into as few districts as possible...Now, I'm just a lowly blogger, without any real connections to the Pennsylvania Democratic machine. So I don't know how far this plea of mine will reach.
Representatives who benefited from the great partisan gerrymander of 2010 were given enough of an advantage to get into office narrowly. In a district designed to give Republicans a narrow advantage, Republican loyalists are likely to be spread thinly, with the balance of the needed votes being drawn from independents. Some of these independents might be more prone to anger about the current situation. These polls suggest that Republicans in those states might be particularly ripe targets for pressure.
But if there are fellow PA Dkosers here who are involved with the state or local Democrats, I implore you to get in touch with them, and dig up some viable candidates the party can put up for all of those Red districts.
In short, Democrats should have a viable candidate for every House district, and ideally, every State Senate and State House seat (Dems only need to pickup 2 Senate seats, and 10 House seats, to control the PA General Assembly). The filing deadline is March 11, so there's not much time left.
I know it's a tall order, but turning Pennsylvania for real blue would have real lasting implications, not just for the state, but for Democrats across the nation, as a success story and possible blueprint in turning a blue state in-name-only into a blue state for real.
1:02 PM PT: Thanks for the Rescue!
Head over to this diary to see how awesome PA Dems can be, when they actually get elected.