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This year, its harder than ever to distinguish what really matters from what doesnt. Special situations are adding to the confusion, as is a fickle public, which is showing a willingness to change its positions in the blink of an eye.
In Hawaiis special Congressional election to fill the opening created by the resignation of Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, Republican Charles Djou certainly looks headed for an upset victory over two Democrats, former Rep. Ed Case, who has already represented the other half of the state in Congress, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa, who has been described by the local media as the candidate of the Democratic Party establishment.
With Djou leading in polls and local Democrats unable to agree to support a single candidate in the election, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has announced that it wont spend any more resources on the race, which it now thinks is unwinnable.
Thats a stunning decision given the Democratic nature of the district, but it reflects the DCCCs frustration with the race and particularly with the states two Senators, who remain bitter about Cases 2006 Democratic primary challenge to Sen. Daniel Akaka and have refused to encourage Hanabusa to exit the race.
Since the two Democrats are effectively dividing the Democratic vote and allowing Djou to win with far less than a majority of the vote, the outcome doesnt say much of anything about November. The outcome isnt irrelevant, but it certainly isnt an indicator of things to come.
The special election in Pennsylvanias 12th district is a far more important event, since its a head-to-head contest in a Democratic part of the state. But while Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry won the district narrowly in 2004 and Al Gore carried it more comfortably in 2000, Barack Obama lost it narrowly in 2008.
This is the kind of district where voters could use the special election as an opportunity to send a message of dissatisfaction about the Obama presidency and the Democratic Congressional agenda.
Republican Tim Burns is about as strong a candidate as Republicans could have hoped for. I interviewed him months ago as well as in late April, and I found him to be a more poised and polished candidate than I did during his first visit.
Given the large Democratic registration advantage in the district and the districts strong support for the late Rep. John Murtha (D), Democrat Mark Critz, who was an aide to Murtha, should have an advantage in the race. A Burns victory would be a bad sign for Democrats for the fall.
Recent events in Utah certainly were noteworthy but not as instructive as the media coverage would suggest.
Nominating conventions are usually dominated by activists and ideologues, and purists at both the state GOP convention and the Democrats 3rd district convention showed their muscle, if not their brains.