Tuesday, February 2, 2010

John Murtha hospitalized, political future in doubt?

The news that Rep. John Murtha is in intensive care following complications from gall bladder surgery last week is sure to stoke rumors that the longtime Pennsylvania Democrat may choose to retire rather than run for re-election to a 19th full term in November.

Murtha's hospitalization, which was first reported by Politico's David Rogers, lands just days after his fourth quarter fundraising report -- just $100,000 raised in the final three months of 2009 with $388,000 in the bank -- had raised some eyebrows among national strategists about the possibility that Murtha, at 77 years old, might not be fully committed to running again.

The simple fact -- as Republicans acknowledge privately -- is that as long as Murtha is on the ballot in the western Pennsylvania 12th district, he cannot be beaten. Murtha was first elected to the seat in a 1974(!) special election and since then has rarely faced a real challenge -- with the exception of a redistricting-forced primary fight in 2002 against then Rep. Frank Mascara (D) that Murtha easily won.

Without Murtha seeking re-election, however, the district would be extremely competitive. In 2008, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) carried it by less than 1,000 votes (out of more than 260,000 cast) while Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) won the 12th by a narrow 51 percent to 49 percent margin four years earlier. The trend line in the district is not moving in the right direction for Democrats, however, as the Vice President Al Gore carried Murtha's seat with 55 percent in 2000.

Republicans believe Pennsylvania is shaping up as very friendly territory for them. The party has united behind state Attorney General Tom Corbett in the governor's race and former Rep. Pat Toomey in the Senate contest. On the House side, Republicans see Pennsylvania's 4th, 7th, 8th, 10th and 11th districts as potential pickup opportunities. Democrats see the 6th and 15th districts are chances for them to gain Republican-held seats in the fall.

source: http://voices.washingtonpost.com


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