Some Political Reality for the 8th District

Bitter did an excellent job of covering the candidate forum in our Congressional district last night, which highlighted all the folks who are lining up to challenge Democrat Patrick Murphy for his Congressional seat in 2010. I was disappointed that the Second Amendment received no consideration in the questioning of each candidate, but let’s face it, that’s not really the hot issue right now. We do have a wide selection of free market oriented candidates, but I think we need to be cautious, and make sure we’re supporting someone who can actually win. In determining what formula you need to win, it’s worthwhile to look at the district as a whole. Some facts:

  • The 8th District Congressional seat flips more often than many. In the past 30 years, it’s flipped parties four times. Prior to that, it was in Republican hands from 1923 to 1977. This is not a seat either party can take for granted.
  • Democrats enjoy a healthy registration advantage over Republicans in our district. Republicans can only win by two means, turnout, and carrying large numbers of independent voters. In 2010, turnout will probably work in the GOP’s favor. But I’m going to be looking for a candidate that can carry independents.
  • Because our district is a swing district, I’m not too keen on a candidate who’s going to agree to term limit himself. If we can get a conservative or moderate Republican in that office, I want to keep him there as long as he can stay. Let’s not go through this again in a few years. The GOP class of 1994 had several Congressmen who made this mistake.

I’m not a rigid believer in politics by the numbers, because so much goes into winning an election, but ultimately it is about getting enough votes to win, and in our district that’s going to mean carrying independents in large enough numbers to overcome the GOPs registration disadvantage. When I hear a candidate say they want to abolish the department of education, or get rid of the home mortgage tax deduction, I might be sympathetic, but those aren’t winning issues. Murphy is going to be tough to beat, even in 2010. He has a strong support base, and a lot of money. I want a candidate that can not only beat him, but hold off strong Democratic challengers. After last night, I’m concerned we don’t have that candidate. I can see why the County GOP might want to tap Fitzpatrick again. But given that Fitz lost to Murphy in 2006, I don’t think that’s him either. The GOP in Bucks County desperately needs some new blood, and unfortunately for us, it takes time to incubate talent at the local level, before someone with experience and ambition agrees to step forward. Last night we were long on ambition, which is good, but short on political experience, which is necessary. I am optimistic, because 2010 will be a hell of a year for the GOP, but my optimism is guarded.