PA-12: Republican Waterloo?
“If we’re able to stop Obama on this it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.”
At that time, it was an exceptionally brazen statement considering the Democrats had a 60 seat super-majority in the Senate and overwhelming numbers in the House of Representatives; his theory was laughable to the Democrats. Then, in the fall the Republican tide began to turn. Townhall meetings erupted with displeasure towards ObamaCare, Christie was a surprise winner in New Jersey and McDonnell reclaimed Virginia for the GOP. Suddenly a Republican Party that was thought to be nearing extinction in January, was gaining political momentum.
Then the unthinkable happened; in an amazing upset, Republican Scott Brown won Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat, depriving Senate Democrats of a filibuster-proof super-majority. His victory would, theoretically, slow down President Obama’s agenda.
As Republican assuredness settled something even more unimaginable happened. The White House doubled down on Healthcare Reform and in spite overwhelming polls numbers against them, President Obama fought hard and convinced Congressional Democrats that his entire presidency depended on this one bill. Feeling considerable pressure, House Democrats obediently “walked the plank” for the President and Healthcare Reform became the law of the land.
Everything that has happened these past nine months has prepared the stage for what is to some next. The race for the 12th Congressional District of Pennsylvania has set itself up to be the antithesis of what the Scott Brown victory in Massachusetts was.
To provide a little background, the current PA-12 race looks eerily similar to what happened this January in Massachusetts. Where Ted Kennedy was the liberal lion of the Senate, Jack Murtha was his mirror image in the Congress. A 36 year veteran of the House, Murtha too was a champion of liberal causes and a master at acquiring pork-barrel spending for projects in his district. Unfortunately, both men died mid-term creating the need for a special election to replace them.
More importantly though, is where the two races differ. Kennedy had no successor, so when former AG Martha Coakley, who had previously won a statewide election campaign, stepped up to run, the MA Democrat machine lined up to support her. Although he was Murtha’s hand picked successor, Mark Critz had to battle with the PA Democrat machine before finally being presented with the nomination.
More precisely though, it is in the Republican candidates that glaring differences between the Massachusetts and Pennsylvania races show themselves. The MA GOP was unified behind their “long-shot” candidate Scott Brown, whereas the Republican party in Pennsylvania could not be more divided over its two PA-12 candidates.
2010 is Col. William Russell second campaign for the PA-12 seat. The first time around he came closer to defeating Murtha than any candidate has come in a generation, yet only collected only 42% of the vote. Russell’s strong point definitely is his work ethic. He has amassed an army of foot soldiers who have crisscrossed the 12th district, building loyal relationships and recruiting a steady stream of “Russell Brigade” volunteers. In fact, Russell was able to get himself on the ballot in 2008 with an aggressive write in campaign by loyal supporters. Despite the Colonel’s strengths, there are some drawbacks. Most notably, the Russell campaign has not worked well with the Pennsylvania Republican Party. Attacks and accusations between Russell and Republican State Committee Chairman Robert Gleason, that began in 2008, have spilled over into the 2010 campaign. Due to his strained relations with the State Republicans, Russell believed that there was no chance he could win last month’s conferee nomination, so he proclaimed that the “fix was in”, weeks before the vote took place. Regardless, he vowed to fight on. When asked repeatedly if he would support Tim Burns in the Special Election, Russell replied. “I wish Tim luck with Critz.”
Tim Burns, on the other hand, is a dream candidate for the Pennsylvania GOP. Young, rich and good looking; Burns has created hundreds of jobs in Western PA and has the Tea Party credentials a candidates need to win in Pennsylvania’s current political climate. Unlike Russell, Mr. Burns is a political novice who’s campaign has been slow to respond to criticism and slightly inaccurate on some minor details. Although he has received much national attention, Burns remains relatively unknown in much of his own district. All signs though point to the Burns campaign firing up its engine for an all out effort over the next few weeks, which is important considering that Mark Critz has a boatload of money and both the special election and primary are a mere 8 weeks away.
Forecast: Right now, it appears as if the Russell camp will attempt a massive write-in campaign for the May special election. He believes that he can win both the November nomination and the special election (even though he is not listed on the special election ballot) on May 18th via a massive groundswell of grassroots support. Not only will he write down his own name for the PA-12 special election, but as Russell has done in the past, he will also encourage his army of 60,000+ donors and volunteers to write down his name on the special election ballot as well. Although Russell does not have the support of the Republican party, he honestly believes that the will of the people is with him and that he can, and will, win with a write in vote.
Unfortunately, even with a massive Republican/Tea Party turnout, the combination of a 2.2 to 1 registration advantage for Democrats and the splitting GOP votes between Burns, the official candidate, and Russell’s write in brigade, it is highly unlikely that either Republican candidate can win the special election. Division in the Republican Party will give special election to the Democrat Critz which will in turn give Nancy Pelosi one more vote to force through her liberal agenda.
If the Republicans do lose this special election, which it seems as if they have every intention of doing, it would certainly mark a turning point in political momentum in the 2010 elections; a Republican Waterloo would result. Irregardless of the actual reason for the defeat, the national media will certainly claim that the popularity of President Obama and his Healthcare Reform lead to the eventual Democrat victory in PA-12. More importantly, it will be the the Democrats, not the Republicans, who have the national momentum behind them going into the November mid-term elections.
As a member of the GOP myself, I am certain to hear Republican complaints from both sides, followed by refrains of Gaylord Parkinson’s 11th Commandment: “Thou shalt speak no ill of any fellow Republican”; but I am a believer that there is consent in silence and I for one cannot sit idly by and watch as Republican’s defeat themselves. Regardless of who it is, we must elect a Conservative Republican to the “Murtha seat”.
“Waterloo” by Abba