Only eight days have passed since Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta officially announced his bid for Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s seat next year.
Maybe it’s a little early to speculate about which major party’s candidate looks like the favorite to win the seat, but why wait.
I can start the argument for a Republican victory with former state revenue secretary Dan Meuser, who announced Tuesday. He definitely represents a strong Republican candidate to keep the seat.
Beyond his presence, almost nothing says a Democrat can win back the 11th Congressional District with its boundaries that redistricters rewrote after the 2010 census to help keep Barletta in office.
They actually rewrote it from an almost 2 to 1 heavily Democratic district to one that’s almost even, and only slightly more Democratic.
District voters have sharply trended Republican since Barletta first won.
Known for his staunch anti-illegal immigration stance, Barletta won the district easily in 2010, beating former Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski by 9.4 percentage points in the last 11th race before redistricting.
His margins only grew in 2012 and 2014 after redistricting.
He beat Democrat Gene Stilp by 17.1 points in 2012 and Democrat Andy Ostrowski by 32.6 points in 2014.
He slipped a little last year, defeating fellow former Hazleton Mayor Michael Marsicano, a Democrat, by only 27.3 points, but that’s probably because Marsicano actually mounted somewhat of a campaign. Ostrowski never did. Stilp, better known than either Ostrowski and Marsicano, ran a better campaign than either, too.
In recent presidential races, district voters have favored Republicans.
In 2012, President Barack Obama won the state by 5.4 percentage points, but lost the rewritten 11th district by 9.4 points to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to an analysis by The Daily Kos, a liberal website. In 2016, President Donald Trump walloped Democratic presidential nominee in the district by 23.8 points. Even in 2008, when Barletta lost to Kanjorski by 3.3 points, Republican nominee John McCain, the Arizona U.S. senator, defeated Obama in what constitutes the current 11th by 4.6 points. In the 11th’s pre-redistricting form, when Democrats dominated, Obama won by 15 points.
That’s why none of the three major forecasters of congressional elections – Inside Elections, The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball – have altered their rating of the district since Barletta entered the Senate race. They all have the 11th safely Republican.
Things could change, of couse, but so far the only Democrat officially in the race, is Robert Alan Howe, an Air Force veteran from Carlisle with really good foreign policy credentials, but little name recognition.
If Howe is it for the Democrats, they’ll have a huge uphill battle to win, which is why Democrats probably would rather someone else, someone like state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Plymouth Twp.
Long friendly with Barletta, Yudichak is well known and popular in Luzerne County – one of the largest parts of the district – and maybe better known in the district than anyone else in the race.
More on him in a future post.
— BORYS KRAWCZENIUK