Post-Mortem/Predictions: What We Learned from Pennsylvania

My first thought this morning was that losing almost 3-to-1 to Mitt Romney in your home state is probably a Sign from God (or at least from the voters) that it’s time to make your peace and drop out of the race, officially. Sorry, folks, but Rick Santorum is through. Again. So is Newt Gingrich, who bet everything on Delaware (Delaware?) and still lost by a 2-to-1 margin. That’s not easy to do in a field of four.

Ron Paul will run until the bitter end. It’s what he does. Newt will go back to Washington. I don’t know what — if any — future Santorum has in elective politics. Pennsylvania voters rejected him by whopping big numbers twice in a row. So he doesn’t have a geographical constituency to serve as his home base any longer, and he hasn’t been a factor in Washington in a long time. Maybe he can fight a death match with Mike Huckabee for that nearly unwatched Saturday evening timeslot on Fox News. I’d buy the DVD.

Yesterday’s five-primary sweep merely confirmed what we already knew: Romney is it. I say that without pleasure. The closest thing I had to a preference in this race was Rick Perry. Unfortunately, his approach was to run for Governor of America instead of President of the United States, and we all saw how well that worked out. Next time, take things a little more seriously, eh, Rick?

The real interesting action was further down on the PA ticket. First up:

With labor groups on his side and new district lines working against him, freshman Democratic Rep. Mark Critz scored an upset Tuesday night by narrowly defeating congressional colleague Jason Altmire in western Pennsylvania.

Reapportionment forced the two conservative Democrats into a member vs. member primary for the state’s 12th Congressional District. With few policy differences separating the two men, the race boiled down to whether the clout of organized labor would outweigh geography.

Three-term lawmaker Altmire held the latter advantage and was considered the early favorite to win.

Right there is how President Obama will hold on to PA, if he can. Big labor and (shhh!) mmmmmmmaybe some ballot-box stuffing. The Romney camp needs to prepare for both, and line up poll watchers in Philly and Pittsburgh. Lots and lots of poll watchers.

Onward now to the next race of interest:

Five-term Representative Tim Holden of Pennsylvania was defeated in a Democratic primary on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, losing to Matt Cartwright, a lawyer, who made Mr. Holden’s vote against President Obama’s health care law a major issue in the newly redrawn 17th District.

Two years later, and PA voters — Democrat PA voters — are still plenty angry about ObamaCare. That’s why PA is in play this year. [CORRECTION: Holden voted against O-Care.] Well, that and the ever-present threat of cap-and-trade and the EPA’s War on Coal. The Democrats might have purged themselves of Holden, but the GOP should be able to pick this seat up in November. The reason why is in the last graf of the story:

The incumbent was one of only 25 remaining Blue Dogs, whose ranks were decimated in the Republican surge of 2010 that wiped out most Democrats in Republican-leaning districts.

Voters aren’t yet done punishing congressional Democrats for the excesses of 2009-2010, just like the GOP suffered two cycles of punishing losses for their excesses in the prior two congresses. It doesn’t help matters that the surviving Democrat caucus is even further to the left than the one which pushed through ObamaCare. You don’t un-sully your brand by retaining Nancy Pelosi as the face of your party. But the Blue Dogs have been hunted to near-extinction, and the Super Left Urban Democrats are unassailable in the primaries. So it might take a generational change before the congressional Democrats can move back towards the center.

Or the Republicans could do something really very genuinely stupid, and hand everything back over like they did in 2006 and 2008. The smart money is probably already on stupid.

The takeaway from Pennsylvania is this: Tea Party sentiment is still strong, ObamaCare is still wildly unpopular, redistricting may be solidifying the GOP’s hold on the House, and few incumbents are safe.

If those last two items seem diametrically opposed to one another, well… welcome to the craziness that is Election 2012.

(Thumbnail on PJM homepage based on a image.)