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Friday, April 07, 2006

PA-07: Cook Report: "Weldon More Vulnerable Than Ever This Year"

Posted by DavidNYC

Amy Walter, Senior Editor for House races at the Cook Political Report, writes about PA-07 in her column today, titled "New Races On The Radar." It's subscription-only, so I'll just quote a few excerpts - but you're gonna like what she has to say. This is the theme of her piece:

When it comes to incumbent retention, party strategists on both sides admit that what worries them most are not the incumbents who have been targeted year after year (think Republican Anne Northup or Democrat Dennis Moore), but incumbents who have not been tested in years. These folks tend to be overconfident and underestimate potential threats, are not as sensitive to the changing demographics of their districts, and are often out-of-touch with modern campaign technology (one insider told the story of a longtime incumbent who had his fundraising contacts on note cards). Examples include former GOP Rep. George Gekas who lost re-election for an 11th term in 2002 and Democrat David Minge who lost his re-election bid in 2000.

Walter identifies Curt Weldon (along with Republican JD Hayworth in AZ-05 and Democrat Allan Mollohan in WV-01) as one such untested incumbent:

Rep. Curt Weldon is getting his first significant contest since winning this seat in 1986.


Republicans concede that the underlying political environment and Weldon's lack of experience in a competitive campaign environment are liabilities for the Republican congressman. While there is no doubt that Weldon is readying himself for a tough fight - he told The Hill newspaper that he is going to unleash the "Army of Curt" - his rusty campaign skills have already been revealed. Weldon's zeal to define his opponent went over the top in early April.

Army of Curt - LOL. Goofy and crazy as he may be, Weldon won't be a pushover:

Yet, labeling Weldon's voting record as out of touch with these suburban voters isn't going to be easy. According to the National Journal vote ratings, Weldon's voting record was pretty evenly divided between liberal and conservative. His composite voting score was 57 percent conservative and 43 percent liberal - not much different from the other two Republican Reps. in the Philadelphia suburbs, Mike Fitzpatrick and Jim Gerlach. CQ pegs his party unity score at 85 percent.


Given the ugly numbers for President Bush nationally, it's not too much to believe that Weldon is more vulnerable than ever this year. But to knock off a well-known, well-liked, and entrenched incumbent like Weldon, Democrats need more than just a good political environment. Sestak also needs to prove to be a strong and well-funded candidate with an effective message who can break through the clutter of the crowded (and expensive) Philadelphia media market.

I think Sestak has the potential to be exactly that guy. And I think "rusty" Weldon could be in for a bit of surprise this campaign season. Remember, Sestak's now on the netroots page, so please consider contributing or volunteering.

Posted at 09:35 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Pennsylvania | Technorati

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I wouldn't put Hayworth in the same box as Weldon. Hayworth did face a challenge in 1996.

Weldon's record isn't just reflected in the NJ ratings.

If you look at the major votes, I bet that Weldon "falls in line" every time

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 7, 2006 10:45 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I'm very glad to see this race get some attaention, since I live in PA-07 and have to put up with Crazy Curt. I posted the following in a comment over at My DD, but since I have a special interest in this race, I'll take the liberty of cross posting it here:

While I agree Crazy Curt is beatable, I wouldn't underestimate how tough it's going to be. Yes, PA-07 has been trending Democratic for several cycles now (since '92, really) but as we saw in Dixie through the 70's and 80's, voters can go on pulling the lever for their local party machines for a long time after they've switched affiliations at the national level.

And believe me: Pa-07 is run by the GOP machine from hell. The local party bosses realize that if Weldon goes down it could break their death grip on power. Plus, the GOP head in Delaware County -- the heart of the district -- is the business partner of Weldon's dirty lobbyist daughter. If Weldon goes down, he goes down. So you know they're going to pull out all the stops this November.

And, just by coincidence, the county is switching to paperless electronic voting machines this election -- not Diebold-built, thank goodness, but still, new machines = lots of confusion at the polls, lots of chances to make sure there aren't enough machines in certain precincts, etc. We've all seen this movie before.

If Sestak is smart -- which he appears to be -- he also won't expect any help from the local Democratic Party. It's completely moribund.

The key, IMO, is to go brutally negative on Crazy Curt, as quickly and massively as possible. Personally, I'd like to see that picture of him pinning the medal on Ghadafi Duck on every local channel, 4 or 5 times a day from now until the election. Turn his daughter into Jack Abramoff in a dress, etc. But that kind of thing takes a LOT of money in Pa-07 -- to reach this district, you've got to buy the entire Philly radio and TV market, and that doesn't come cheap.

To win, Setak is going to need to sweep the Main Line communities -- like Ardmore and Haverford -- that are in the district, pile up big majorities in the closer-in suburbs like Drexel Hill and Landsdowne, and make inroads into the faster growing, less established subdivisions out around Newtown Square and in Chester County -- places where voters are affluent and generally fiscally conservative, but not as wired into the county GOP machine.

This is doable -- just as Tim Keane was able to carry big, exurban Va. counties like Loudoun -- but again, it's going to take a lot of time, energy and money, and there is essentially no help to be had from the local Democratic Party. And Sestak has to reckon with the fact that the local GOP machine has shown an impressive ability to turn out the party droids in special and off-year elections.

What makes it doable is the fact that the Pa Republicans did the same thing to PA-07 in the last redistricting that the Texas GOP did to DeLay's district -- they carved out some of the more Republican areas to create other safe seats. They thought they left enough of a cushion for Weldon and the machine to hold on. We'll see if they were right in November.

Posted by: billmon [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2006 01:17 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

but as we saw in Dixie through the 70's and 80's, voters can go on pulling the lever for their local party machines for a long time after they've switched affiliations at the national level.

Indeed, but Gingrich did successfully get many Dixiecrats to "wake up" and start pulling the GOP lever down the line. Maybe our time has finally come, with the Weldons, Gerlachs and Simmonses (few though they may be).

The key, IMO, is to go brutally negative on Crazy Curt, as quickly and massively as possible. Personally, I'd like to see that picture of him pinning the medal on Ghadafi Duck on every local channel, 4 or 5 times a day from now until the election.

Oh man, I couldn't agree more. As I wrote in an e-mail, yeah, it's all well and good that Kadafi claims to have renounced WMDs now and wants to make nice with us. But just because a terrorist seeks a thaw in relations is no reason to start acting all buddy-buddy with him and freakin' pin medals on his chest. I think a seriously negative Lockerbie-Kadafi ad could be just devastating. I wonder if any Dems have the guts to do that, though.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2006 01:51 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Well I don't understand how Weldon gets reelected by strong margins when he is in a 53-47 Kerry district what makes Kerry voters want him?

Posted by: D in FL. [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2006 01:54 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Weldon in the years

2004: 59-40
2002: 66-34
2000: 65-35

Same opponent in '00 and '02. Looks like a trend. PA should be good for us this cycle with Casey/Santorum and a close Gov. race. I'm still worried that Swann is going to pull too many armchair-beer drinking-conservatives to the polls though and cancel out an otherwise strong time in PA for us. Then agian, Philly is Rendell's base, so you never know. I'm going with PA-6, 7, and 8 all as too early to tell but if winds hold up, they are ours.

Posted by: trowaman [TypeKey Profile Page] at April 8, 2006 03:52 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment