Sabatos Crystal Ball

Pennsylvania Races

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Pennsylvania (04)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Watch List” of the next 25 House races worth keeping an eye on.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Jason Altimire (D) defeated Rep. Melissa Hart (R) with 52% of the votes.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Melissa Hart (R) will win reelection over Jason Altmire (D). As GOP Sen. Rick Santorum’s reelection numbers fell in western Pennsylvania this year, Democrats acquired some hope that they could mount a credible race in at least one area district, and it turns out that this is it. Although Hart remains personally popular in this ancestrally Democratic district, she is swimming upstream this year as Democrats are headed for landslides in the Keystone State. National Democrats have come to Altmire’s aid; though we think it may be enough to get him to 47 to 49 percent of the vote, we give a narrow edge to Hart to retain this seat.


Candidates

Melissa Hart (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $1,856,979.74 | Total Spent: $1,390,028.66
Website

Jason Altmire – Democrat – Total Raised: $654,812.81 | Total Spent: $586,710.48
Website

Pennsylvania (06)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) defeated Lois Murphy (D) with 51% of the vote .

November 6, 2006 Update:

Lois Murphy (D) will unseat Rep. Jim Gerlach (R). Let’s do the math: Gerlach won by merely 2 percent in both 2002 and 2004, years when parties were at about even strength in Pennsylvania. Is this year at least two percent less Republican? You bet. Of course, many in the district argue that Gerlach has run a more disciplined and aggressive effort against Murphy this time around and that midterm election voters are more likely to be the constituents who know him and like him best. But Murphy has out-raised him consistently and has learned from her mistakes two years ago as well. We would be fairly surprised to see Gerlach hold on tomorrow.

August 23, 2006 Update:

As “Mr. 51 percent,” Rep. Jim Gerlach has always stood out as the most vulnerable (unindicted) Republican from the beginning of the 2006 cycle. As the political environment continues to worsen for the national GOP, especially in suburbs, Gerlach in particular is feeling the heat from a better-funded challenge by Democrat Lois Murphy. The Crystal Ball doubts that Gerlach will be able to hold his tenuous 2004 majority this time around, and despite the incumbent’s best efforts, gives this race the first lean-Democratic takeover rating of the year.

June 29, 2006 Update:

Republican incumbents are feeling the heat in suburban areas of Pennsylvania this year, and the most endangered is Rep. Jim Gerlach. Facing a tough rematch against Democrat Lois Murphy, whom he narrowly bested in 2004, Gerlach has taken to the airwaves in the more conservative portions of his district with an ad talking tough on illegal immigration. Still, Gerlach stands only an even chance of running up big enough margins in those areas to offset Murphy’s advantages in the closer-in Montgomery County precincts of the district.


February 2006 Outlook:

In a seat supposedly tailor-made for him, two-term GOP Rep. Jim Gerlach has not yet been able to truly solidify his grasp at the ballot box. It seems as if each year, any advantages Gerlach has accrued as the result of his incumbency have been offset by this outer-suburban southeastern Pennsylvania district’s demographic movement towards Democrats.

In his first race in 2002, Gerlach bested Democrat Dan Wofford by a narrower than expected 51 to 49 percent margin in an open seat situation. In 2004, as the district opted for John Kerry at the top of the ticket, Gerlach eked out another 51 to 49 percent victory, this time over Democratic attorney Lois Murphy. Murphy has announced her intention to seek a rematch in 2006 and actually out-raised the incumbent Gerlach during the final quarter of 2005, setting up what will surely be one of the cycle’s marquee races. And with Republican lightning rod Sen. Rick Santorum heading next year’s GOP ticket in the Keystone State, a strong turnout on the part of a motivated Democratic base could really cause the more moderate Gerlach headaches. Of all GOP incumbents, Gerlach may be the most endangered, and though he is an experienced campaigner and shows over $1 million in the bank, we currently rate this race a toss-up.

Candidates

Jim Gerlach (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,811,107.22 | Total Spent: $2,684,384.46
Website

Lois Murphy – Democrat – Total Raised: $3,408,100.29 | Total Spent: $2,827,042.47
Website

Pennsylvania (07)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Joe Sestak (D) defeated Rep. Curt Weldon (R) with 56% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Joe Sestak (D) will unseat Rep. Curt Weldon (R). Weldon’s reelection prospects were 50/50 at best even before FBI agents raided his daughter’s home to seal evidence that she was improperly lobbying for a foreign client with ties to Slobodan Milosevic and possible government business for Weldon’s consideration. Now, it is very difficult to see how Sestak could lose this race, which seemed so far out of reach for Democrats only one year ago.

June 29, 2006 Update:

GOP Rep. Curt Weldon, who has not faced serious competition in ages, seems to be taking his campaign seriously in 2006. He clearly recognizes the shifting partisan foundations of this Democratic-trending, Delaware County-based district and is raising plenty o
f campaign cash, but he has also shown his rust by criticizing his Democratic rival, decorated veteran Joe Sestak, for treating his daughter’s brain tumor in a hospital outside the district. Weldon has deep roots in this district, but his persistence on the issue of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq has struck more than several observers as unusual, and it’s just enough to push this race into the Dirty Thirty for the first time.


February 2006 Outlook:

Even in the face of very weak opposition, ten-term GOP Rep. Curt Weldon failed to break 60 percent of the vote in the 2004 election. Make no mistake; this close-in Philadelphia suburban district is moving quickly towards the Democrats, and voted 53 percent for Kerry the same year. That’s why all of a sudden, the entrenched Weldon has been added to lists of possible vulnerable Republican incumbents. Opposing him this year will be veteran Joe Sestak, who only recently announced his candidacy and has not yet had time to raise money. Still, Sestak has a long way to go if he wants to put Weldon’s congressional future in jeopardy.

Candidates

Curt Weldon (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,492,971.24 | Total Spent: $2,553,501.09
Website

Joe Sestak – Democrat – Third Quarter Raised: $1,181,010.73 | Cash on Hand: $1,561,872.22
Website

Pennsylvania (08)

Outlook: Toss-up


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 8, 2006 Update:

Patrick Murphy (D) defeated Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) by barely over 1,000 votes.

November 6, 2006 Update:

Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R) will win reelection over Patrick Murphy (D). Of all the eastern Pennsylvania GOP incumbents, the Crystal Ball believes Fitzpatrick is in the best shape. A conservative who doesn’t rock the boat, Fitzpatrick has ably criticized Murphy’s lack of details in explaining his position on Iraq, and scored a few points with a commercial featuring an embarrassing clip of Iraq veteran Murphy’s appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball. National Democrats insist Murphy still stands an excellent chance to win, and this race could still go either way. But Fitzpatrick’s road to 50 percent plus one is much easier than that of others in his delegation, and we’re putting our thumb on the scale for him.

June 29, 2006 Update:

As expected, Democrats here selected veteran Patrick Murphy as their nominee to do battle against freshman GOP Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, and Murphy is hoping that in 2006 as opposed to 2004, his party can cut through all the clutter and get across to voters their message that Fitzpatrick is too conservative for the district. But Fitzpatrick retains a gigantic cash-on-hand advantage over his challenger, and that matters a great deal in the expensive Philadelphia media market. Continue to give Fitzpatrick an edge here.


February 2006 Outlook:

Freshman Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick won convincingly last year in this pro-Kerry, Bucks County-based district, if only because Democrats were caught off guard when longtime moderate GOP Rep. Jim Greenwood announced his decision not to seek reelection at the very last minute. Republicans had selected the conservative Fitzpatrick, a former Bucks County commissioner, over the wishes of the popular Greenwood, although Greenwood did sign on to Fitzpatrick’s campaign prior to November. Meanwhile, Democrats were stuck with their sacrificial lamb, liberal activist Virginia Schrader, who clearly would not have been her party’s choice if Greenwood had given more notice of his decision to retire.

In 2006, several Democrats are vying to carry their party’s banner in what each hopes will be a banner year for Pennsylvania’s Democrats. Prosecutor Patrick Murphy, former Bucks County commissioner Andy Warren, and Coast Guard Veteran Paul Lang each bring very different sets of credentials to the nomination race, but Murphy appears to be the attracting the most support in the campaign’s early stages. In the general election, the Democratic nominee will certainly seek to hold Fitzpatrick’s feet to the fire over his hesitance on Stem Cell research (one issue on which Fitzpatrick and the socially liberal Greenwood vigorously disagree) in this highly college-educated district, but given the freshman’s strong showing last year, Fitzpatrick holds a substantial early edge.

Candidates

Mike Fitzpatrick (I) – Republican – Total Raised: $2,456,376.78 | Total Spent: $2,407,530.22
Website

Patrick Murphy – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,859,350.15 | Total Spent: $1,478,203.38
Website

Pennsylvania (10)

Outlook: Leans Democratic


This race is part of the Crystal Ball’s “Ferocious FIFTY” list of the 50 most competitive House races in the nation.

November 6, 2006 Update:

November 6, 2006 Update:

Chris Carney (D) defeated Rep. Don Sherwood (R) with 53% of the vote.

November 6, 2006 Update:

November 6, 2006 Update:

Chris Carney (D) will unseat Rep. Don Sherwood (R). Two words: mistress and choking. Sherwood’s substantial settlement agreement and too-late mea culpa lead us to continue to believe he is in serious hot water tomorrow. Carney’s devastating ads have featured Republicans repudiating Sherwood’s behavior, and this may prove to be the one district where the Foley scandal caused an unmistakable and long-term refocusing of a race on personal behavior and moral values.


Background

There’s only one explanation for GOP Rep. Don Sherwood’s rather anemic 56 percent to 44 percent primary victory over political unknown Kathy Scott, and it’s the fact that Sherwood’s five-year affair with political activist Cynthia Ore was recently brought to light by ugly accusations of choking and a resulting undisclosed settlement. Sherwood’s unexpected and underwhelming limp across the primary finish line served as a wake up call that his personal pecadilloes have taken a toll on his standing with this far-northeastern Pennsylvania district’s electorate.

Make no mistake about it: even though the 10
th is as reliably GOP a district as you can find in northeastern Pennsylvania, Sherwood will need to rally far more than 56 percent of Republican voters to support him in November if he wants to win a fifth term in Congress. Democratic challenger veteran Chris Carney is mounting as serious an effort as any Democrat has here since Democrat Patrick Casey lost here in 2000, and if he raises anything close to Sherwood’s fundraising total for the second quarter, we may consider upgrading this race, though Sherwood’s personal wealth all but guarantees the incumbent a financial advantage down the stretch.

Candidates

Don Sherwood (I) – Republican – Total Raised:$1,568,449.13 I Cash On Hand: $1,735,371.91

Chris Carney – Democrat – Total Raised: $1,159,792.89 I Total Spent:$938,692.00
Website