Jockeying for the Democratic Nod in Pennsylvania
After a hectic few weeks, the crowded field for the Democratic nomination to succeed the recently deceased Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) seems to be narrowing down. Democratic party leaders will choose a nominee on March 6th.
There was initial speculation that Murtha’s widow, Joyce Murtha, might receive the nomination. However, she indicated earlier this week that she was not interested in filling the position and endorsed Murtha district director Mark Critz. Another potential candidate, former Lt. Governor Mark Singel, dropped out yesterday and also endorsed Critz. That leaves Critz and former state Treasurer Barbara Hafer as the leading candidates, although there are a few dark horse candidates remaining as well. With the high profile endorsements of Singel and Joyce Murtha, Critz may be the favorite.
On the Republican side, party officials have failed to recruit any marquee names. They are left to select between the ’08 nominee, William Russell, and local businessman and first-time candidate Tim Burns. Party officials are rumored to be leaning toward Burns, but Russell has indicated a willingness to run as an Independent spoiler if he does not get the Republican nomination. If Russell follows through on those threats, whoever the Democratic nominee is would be heavily favored to win.
Republicans Avoid Divisive Primaries in AK and NJ
Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief after tough primary elections evaporated in battleground states this week:
• In NJ-03 Toms River Township Councilor Maurice Hill dropped out of the race to challenge freshman Rep. John Adler (D). That leaves a clear field for party favorite and ex-Philadelphia Eagles player Jon Runyan. With built in name recognition from his football career Runyan poses a strong challenge to Adler in theory. But Runyan is an untested campaigner whereas Adler is highly experienced and well funded, so stay tuned for further developments.
• In the Alaska at-large seat, political blogger Andrew Halcro appears to be backing off a challenge to Rep. Don Young (R). Young has been dogged by allegations of corruption over the years. He still faces businessman and lawyer Sheldon Fisher in the primary and will then have to take on Democrat state Rep. Harry Crawford in the general election.
Fact, Fiction and Statistics
Over at the ever educational 538.com, Nate Silver convincingly debunks the myth the incumbents polling less than 50% in the year before an election are likely to go down in defeat.
Like most posts at 538.com this gets into pretty dense statistics pretty quickly. You can read the whole article here, but here is a quick summary of his findings:
1) It is extremely common for an incumbent come back to win re-election while having less than 50 percent of the vote in early polls.
2) In comparison to early polls, there is no demonstrable tendency for challengers to pick up a larger share of the undecided vote than incumbents.
3) Incumbents almost always get a larger share of the actual vote than they do in early polls (as do challengers).
4) However, the incumbent’s vote share in early polls may in fact be a better predictor of the final margin in the race than the opponent’s vote share, ie – if an incumbent is leading by four points in the early polls, they are likely to win by four points in the election, even if both candidates end up with larger totals in the end.