Sabato's Crystal Ball

Pennsylvania (03) House 2010

 

Crystal Ball Outlook: Leans R

Democratic candidate: Kathy Dahlkemper, Incumbent

Republican candidate: Mike Kelly, Businessman

Recent updates from the Crystal Ball

Update: October 5, 2010

Pennsylvania’s 3rd District was tight as a tick in the 2008 presidential race, as Republican nominee John McCain triumphed over Barack Obama by just 17 votes among the nearly 300,000 votes cast. Simultaneously, Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper prevailed over incumbent Republican Phil English by just 2%. This is a battleground district, with both parties able to be competitive if the conditions are right. This year, the conditions are simply not right for Democrats. If the 2008 presidential race was run again in this district today, McCain would win by a much larger margin and polling shows Dahlkemper already trailing the Republican nominee, Mike Kelly. Dahlkemper has no choice but to go hard negative against him, running an ad sarcastically asking voters to “pity the multi-millionaires.” Not only does this signal the level of desperation in the Dahlkemper camp, it could also backfire. The Crystal Ball changes our rating from Toss-Up to Leans R.

Background:

Democratic incumbent Kathy Dahlkemper broke the Republican hold on the 3rd District in the 2008 election, pulling off a narrow 51-48 percent win over then-incumbent Phil English.  The working-class 3rd district that encompasses northwestern Pennsylvania voted to elect George W. Bush each time, but produced only a razor-thin victory of 17 votes for John McCain in 2008.

Announced Republican challengers include lawyer John Onorato, businessman Paul Huber, and Pennsylvania Attorney General narcotics agent Elaine Surma.  The lack of star power on the Republican side and a significant fundraising advantage for Dahlkemper could pose problems for the challengers.  In addition, Dahlkemper’s moderate, many times Republican, voting record in Congress could prove a serious obstacle to her Republican opponents, who might wish to tie her to President Obama’s “ineffective” or “dangerous” policies.