Sunday, April 22, 2012

Can Mark Critz win in the General Election?

This question has been bothering me for quite some time.  Mark Critz wants voters in the primary to think of him as the better Democrat, but does that make him the better candidate in November and the better person to represent us in Congress?

Most of his support comes from unions.  I can't help but wondering if that is really because he is not Jason Altmire than anything else (Altmire becomes target for unions over healthcare law vote).  Many union leaders claim that Altmire promised that he would vote for health care reform, while Altmire says he told them he would likely support it but it depends on the final version of the bill.  I guess Altmire wanted to read it to see what was in it before voting on it.  Altmire's version of the union meetings is supported by some union leaders and those unions are supporting him.

One question I have is if Critz wins and the unions have succeeded in getting their revenge on Altmire, will they still be there as enthusiastically for Critz as they are now?  The only real difference between them is this promise that Altmire allegedly broke.  Critz is firm that he would not have supported health care reform either.

First of two of the issues that became large in this campaign are Altmire criticizing Critz voting "present" on a vote for a tea party budget that Altmire went against party leadership to vote "no".  The second is Altmire's vote for a balanced budget amendment.  In a general election, I think both issues could benefit Altmire and hurt Critz.  Voting "yes" or "no" and not playing games like voting "present" is an example of the kind of games many people here hate.  I liked that Altmire didn't play this game and voted "no", and I think a lot of voters in our district would agree.

I think that a balanced budget amendment would be a disaster for this country.  I don't think any rational Republican would really want it either if they were really honest about it, but Altmire or Critz won't be running against a rational Republican.  The concept, however, has widespread support.  Altmire's vote for the balanced budget amendment makes this a non-issue in the general election.  However, the Republican Tea Party challenger and the super pacs will beat Mark Critz like a rented mule over this issue.

Two other challenges for Mark Critz are that he is not as polished a speaker as Jason Altmire and he knows little about our area and we know little about him.  Critz's performance at a televised debate a couple week's ago was poor. The low point was when he stopped answering a question to say "My commercial is on TV.  Hey look at that." and pointed to a TV monitor off camera.  Parts of it were painful to watch.

Jason Altmire has been our representative for three terms.  He is very visible and is on TV quite a bit both locally and nationally.  His accomplishments are well known.  Mark Critz seems to be more comfortable working behind the scenes as he has for so many years under John Murtha.  This makes it a bit more difficult to see his accomplishments.  He also admittedly is just learning about our area having spent most of his life around Johnstown.  Will he represent this entire region or stay in the Johnstown area?  Altmire already has relationships built in our area as does the Tea Party challenger.

On Critz's side is his campaign manager, Mike Mikus.  Mikus may be the best campaign manager in our area having successfully lead both of Critz's previous campaigns, Altmire's second campaign against Mellisa Hart and most recently, Rich Fitzgerald's campaign for County Executive.  He probably knows Allegheny County and its politics was well if not better than anyone.  His knowledge and experience are the real reason this is a close race more than anything else.  If anyone can bring Critz to victory in November, it is Mikus.  I think he is outgrowing running local elections and is ready for a bigger challenge.  If Critz loses, I think any smart statewide candidate should snap him up immediately.

Jason Altmire has governed not as a loyal Democrat, but as a representative of our conservative Republican leaning district.  This positions him well for general elections, but makes him unpopular among liberal Democrats.  The things Altmire is being criticized for in the primary would make him a stronger candidate in the general election.  He can say he stood up to Nancy Pelosi (He didn't vote for her for majority leader.), unions and the liberal Democrats on one side, and stood up to the Tea Party and the Republicans on the other.  This plants him right in the middle even if it pisses off everyone on both sides.

Will Mark Critz portraying himself as a loyal Democrat and getting endorsements from people like President Clinton hurt in the general election?  I could easily see the Clinton endorsement commercials rewritten as a negative ad by the Republicans.  I could see the union endorsements, the voting "present" issue  and his vote against a balanced budget amendment all being used against him.  When I checked to see if he voted for Nancy Pelosi for majority leader I found that she sponsored a fundraiser for him.  That will be used against him as well.

The voters will decide who they want on Tuesday.  The Democrats in our district need to elect the best candidate that can win in November, because I don't even want to consider what it would be like to be represented by a Tea Party candidate who doesn't even live in our district.

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