New Democratic poll results say Mark Critz is maintaining a 10-point lead over Republican challenger Keith Rothfus in the PA12 congressional race.

A poll memo released by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says Critz, of Johnstown, has a 50-40% lead over the Sewickley attorney in a territory that's tricky for pols in both parties. Mitt Romney enjoys a 9-point (51-42%) lead over Barack Obama in the newly-designed district, which exactly matches Obama's 2008 loss to John McCain there (of 54-45%). At the same time the memo says GOP members of Congress are unpopular in the district north and east of Pittsburgh, with 29% percent saying they are "very unfavorable" toward them.

Favorable ratings for Democrats in Congress aren't reflected in the memo, but it says U.S. Sen. Bob Casey leads Republican Tom Smith 51-43%, which is lower than the 18-point lead the incumbent enjoyed statewide in the last Quinnipiac poll.

Critz led Rothfus 46-36% in a study the Democrat's campaign released in late June. As we noted earlier it's shaping up to be one of the most-watched congressional races in the country, let alone the state.

Said Rothfus spokesman Jonathan Raso:

If the liberal democrats behind the Critz campaign are actually satisfied with their poll, they should release it in its entirety including cross tabs. Instead of career politician Congressman Critz releasing biased topline numbers as a typical political tactic, he owes it to the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania to answer the following questions: Why did Congressman Critz stand with President Obama in defense of his disastrous healthcare bill and vote to raid Medicare of $741 billion, leaving our seniors' health at risk? Why has Congressman Critz stood shoulder to shoulder with President Obama and his failed economic policies, leaving his home county with 9.3% unemployment and the rest of the workers of Southwestern PA struggling? Why does Congressman Critz think we should keep him and President Obama in Washington when he has so badly failed the twelfth district, and when we at home are so desperately in need of a change in direction?

And Critz spokesman Mike Mikus:

This poll shows what we are seeing as Mark travels the district. He is in a strong position and grows stronger as the voters learn about his record of fighting for jobs and protecting Social Security and Medicare.

I would be very concerned if I was Keith Rothfus. He's been campaigning for three consecutive years and can't gain any traction because the people know that he wants to end Medicare as we know it and force seniors to pay $6400 more per year for health care.

The latest poll memo from the DCCC is below (click image for larger version):


The air war looks to be starting early in Critz v. Rothfus, one of the most-watched congressional races in the country.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has bought almost $145,000 of air time in the Pittsburgh market starting next Friday, Aug. 17, and while the public file posted by WPXI-TV today doesn't say it's for the PA12 race it almost certainly will be. The other main race in the TV market is Tim Murphy v. Larry Maggi, but that has a lower profile.

The buy makes clear that Republicans are eyeing the seat (gerrymandered by the GOP to pit Democratic incumbents Critz and Jason Altmire against each other in the spring) for a pickup. And their spot will almost surely be negative too -- that's what independent expenditure arms do, and this fall is shaping up to be really nasty already. The Democrat-supporting House Majority PAC is currently set to go on TV a month later. UPDATE: A Democratic source says the PAC will really be up just a few days after the NRCC ads run.

UPDATE: The anti-Critz buy is the biggest among 4 seats Republicans are targeting, according to Shira Toeplitz at Roll Call. The breakdown:

  • Georgia’s 12th district: $81,065 across two markets.
  • Kentucky’s 6th district: $45,305 in Lexington.
  • North Carolina’s 7th district: $27,600 in Wilmington.
  • Pennsylvania’s 12th district: $107,175 in Pittsburgh.

The United Mine Workers -- who have had some interesting interplay on the P-G's letters pages with others in organized labor supporting Barack Obama  -- look to be sitting out the presidential election this year after supporting Obama four years ago. But they're no friends of Mitt Romney either.

From the National Journal:

"As of right now, we've elected to stay out of this election," said Mike Caputo, a UMWA official and a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. "Our members right now have indicated to stay out of this race, and that's why we've done that.... I don't think quite frankly that coalfield folks are crazy about either candidate."

Both candidates are trying to prove otherwise to voters in coal-intensive swing states. Earlier this week the Obama campaign released in Ohio the first coal-issue ad of this cycle, claiming that Romney has flip-flopped his position on coal. The ad includes comments that Romney made as Massachusetts governor in 2003 standing in front of a coal plant, saying that he wouldn't support jobs that kill people.

For his part, Romney is claiming Obama's Environmental Protection Agency is waging a war on coal with a slew of regulations.

Pat Toomey's opponent in Pa's tight 2010 US Senate race, Joe Sestak, is among the Democratic voices criticizing an ad from an Obama-supporting SuperPAC that ties business moves by Mitt Romney's former equity firm Bain Capital to a woman's death. The spot from Priorities USA Action centers on a man who lost his job and family health insurance after Bain took over his Kansas City steel mill. "I do not think Mitt Romney realizes what he's done to anyone. Furthermore I do not think Mitt Romney is concerned," the former steelworker says.

From the WSJ:

"I thought the ad was wrong in terms of trying to tie a presidential candidate to a personal tragedy of a family," said former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. "This ad goes over the edge."

We haven't personally seen the ad in the Pittsburgh market but it's probably running here -- Priorities USA has bought time on the city's four broadcast networks through Monday. It's showing in five battleground states. UPDATE: No it's not yet on air yet, according to Maggie Haberman at Politico.


The Daily Show led off last night with the voter ID laws approved by GOP legislatures in Pa and other swing states this presidential year and finished off the spot with the Corbett administration legal stipulation that it has no evidence of election-day voter fraud.

"It doesn't happen, this [law] won't stop it, I think you see why we have to do it now," Jon Stewart said lawyerly. "Next up: leashes for unicorns."

Studies (like this one from the P-G's Andrew McGill) show Pa's voter ID bill will have the biggest impact on elderly voters. So it makes sense that members of the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame (who have voted in general elections for 50 straight years and are 68 at the youngest) would be among those impacted. Voter ID critics at the AFL-CIO crunched the data and found 1 in 4 members of the Hall who are still actively voting appear on lists of those with no (or expiring) PennDOT ID. From my story:

The AFL-CIO cross-referenced the state's list of some 21,000 Hall of Fame members statewide with 2011 and 2012 voter data and found 5,923 who were still active voters. Of those voters, 1,384 (23 percent) are named in separate state data listing those who do not match up exactly with PennDOT ID data, or have IDs set to expire a year before the Nov. 6 election, rendering them unacceptable for voting.

"These are 1,384 individuals who have not missed a general election since at least 1961 -- but who may very well be prevented from voting for the first time this year -- if they are unaware of the new Voter ID Law, or unable to obtain the proper ID in time for the election," the union umbrella organization stated in releasing the findings.

Another voter on the no-ID rolls is PA18 Democratic congressional candidate Larry Maggi, whose name is spelled "Lawrence" on his PennDOT ID, meaning an election judge will make the call on whether that "substantially conforms" with his voter registration under the law. From a statement he issued yesterday:

“As a Marine, I served our country to protect freedom and democracy for every American.  The most basic freedom in a democracy is the right to vote.  Now, I am not even certain my vote will count this November.  The state is not ready to implement this law if over 700,000 people do not have the proper ID to be eligible to vote---including veterans and lifelong residents.”

Maggi, who is also a former policeman, opposes the law. His campaign is launching a website called "Let Larry Vote" later today to publicize the problem.

In Philly, Democrats and the NAACP are up in arms over a study from a geographic data analysis firm showing the law has an outsized impact on minority voters (which the DoJ is looking into as well). From the Inquirer:

Examining wards by racial population, there was a strong relationship between high white population percentages and a low percentage without valid PennDot ID, and between a high black population percentage and a high percentage without valid PennDot ID. A moderate positive relationship was found between a neighborhood's Latino percentage and its percentage of invalid PennDot ID.

Those findings were based on information released by the Department of State, which includes the names of many people who have PennDot identification but appeared on the state's list anyway.

The relationship was strongest for those with expired ID - the new law does not allow ID that has been expired for more than a year from the election date - and weak for those with no PennDot ID. Higher populations of black voters tended to correlate with higher percentages of expired IDs; the opposite effect was true for white voters.

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