The key to 2014 in the Keystone State is how well the GOP can play defense in not-so-friendly territory. Clearly they have better odds in some races than others, but if the Republicans want to build a lasting majority in the House they must be able retain these swingish districts like those in Pennsylvania. Here’s the scoop:
Governor: The election won’t be for another six months, but with nearly 90% accuracy we can say that Democrat Tom Wolf will take office as the 47th Governor of Pennsylvania in January 2015. How do we know this? First, look at the Democratic primary: the most recent poll from Franklin and Marshall shows Wolf with a commanding lead over his nearest Democratic rival, Rep. Alison Schwartz. As a caveat, there hasn’t been any polling coming out since the beginning of the month, but there’s nothing to suggest that Wolf’s momentum has stalled over the past three weeks. Baring a historic polling failure, he will win the May 20th primary. How does he fare in the general election? After Wolf wins the primary he will face deeply unpopular incumbent Governor Tom Corbett (R), who has a dismal 31% approval rating. The most recent Quinnipiac poll has Wolf crushing Corbett by 19(!) percentage points in a head-to-head match up. In short: game over man, game over. This race is Likely Democrat, and the only reason it is not rated Safe Democrat is that it is never prudent to completely rule out an incumbent. Even with odds like these.
PA-6: Six-term Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) has announced he is not running for reelection, which puts this marginally Republican district into a competitive status. Only one candidate for each party is running to replace him: former Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) and Iraq veteran and physician Manan Trivedi (D). Trivedi has been the Democratic nominee twice for this seat and both times he’s lost by a wide margin. Meanwhile, Costello has a more than 2-to-1 fundraising advantage and with the DCCC focusing on protecting incumbents, there is doubt as to whether Trivedi will get the outside help he needs to win this race. Until Trivedi can show that he can improve on his past performance, this race is Likely Republican.
PA-8: In 2012 Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R) won reelection by 13.2 percentage points in a district that Mitt Romney only won by .1. This disparity means that, in the right conditions and with the right candidate, the Democrats have a chance to pick up this seat. This year they have a choice between Army Ranger Kevin Strouse and businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, neither with any experience in politics. Despite being a bit wet behind the ears, both are strong candidates and in a Democrat-friendly cycle they would be a serious threat to Fitzpatrick. However, this is the exact opposite of a Democrat-friendly cycle and its hard to see how either one could overcome the current political conditions. On top all this, the DCCC will likely be too busy protecting incumbents to give this race meaningful attention while at the same time Fitzpatrick has outraised both Democrats combined. Better luck in 2016 Democrats, because this race is Likely Republican.
PA-13: With Rep. Allison Schwartz (D) running for Governor, there is a slew of Democrats looking to replace her in this very blue district. The top contenders are: former Rep. Marjorie Marolies, State Sen. Daylin Leach, State Rep. Brendan Boyle, and anesthesiologist Valerie Arkoosh. A poll from August of last year showed Marolies with a large lead over her opponents, however she has lagged in fundraising and it is Arkoosh who’s leading in the money race. That being said, Marolies has the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton and House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D). Can Arkoosh’s cash advantage help her overcome the Clinton machine? Only time will tell, but regardless of who wins the primary this seat is Safe Democratic.