Democrats were never going to win the 6th District with Jim Gerlach in the seat, but now that he’s not seeking reelection, the odds of a pick-up just got a lot better.
The new PA-6 district leans about 2 points toward the Republicans, so this isn’t some easy win or anything. But Gerlach got a lot of ticket-splitting Democrats to vote for him because he had an undeserved reputation as a moderate, and the conservative wing of the Philadelphia labor movement campaigned for him.
You see that in the 2012 results. Mitt Romney won the new 6th District with 51.32% of the vote, but a bunch of Democrats split their tickets and Gerlach got 57.19% of the vote over Manan Trivedi. Incumbency was worth about 6 points to Gerlach.
Romney was about as close to a warm body candidate as you could get. The base never liked him, he didn’t really campaign in PA, but he still beat Obama with this electorate, and that illustrates how much of a challenge this would be for Democrats.
The case for optimism goes like this: Republican primary voters will never nominate another Jim Gerlach. They will nominate some nutter like Sam Rohrer who will put off moderate voters enough that a top-tier Democratic candidate gets a fair hearing.
Are Democrats going to recruit a top tier candidate in time? Who knows! Bob Casey’s brother lives in the district, but there’s no telling who else might run yet. Anybody know someone we could try to draft?