In a feisty mood after saying at one point that PA-12 was moving toward Republican Tim Burns -- only to see him lose by almost 9 points to Mark Critz -- respected pollster Charlie Cook takes aim at Burns' campaign team and his ads. From the National Journal:
Although no single district can be an accurate microcosm of a larger set of competitive districts, Pennsylvania's 12th District seemed to be a good example of a certain type. It is blue-collar with a mix of small towns, cities and rural areas. The Republican candidate was competent, well-funded and had a good story. Obama's job approval ratings in the district were below the national average. It might not have been a gimme, but it was a race the Republicans should have won. Not only did they lose, though, they lost by 8 points, just shy of the traditional 10-point yardstick of a landslide.
What happened? GOP strategists argue there was such an influx of base Democratic voters turning out for the Senate primary that their candidate, Tim Burns, didn't have a chance.
As an internal examination of the results by their pollster concluded, "The Democratic primary prevented the turnout depression we have seen in other races this year: 82,675 turned out to vote, making Election Day turnout 64.3 percent Democrat -- 35.6 percent Republican. This is overwhelmingly the most powerful factor impacting the results which makes this race different from other partisan contests held this year."
There is no dispute the Democratic Senate primary pulled in a large number of base Democrats. But where were those agitated Republicans, independents and what were once called Reagan Democrats? The Republican analysis seems to imply GOP victory is dependent upon Democratic vote depression, and for them to win, Democratic voters must be lethargic and not show up.
The GOP's "72-hour program," said to be the most sophisticated and effective voter identification and get-out-the-vote program in American politics, apparently was somewhere outside district borders. Republicans apparently won easily among stay-at-home non-voters.
The week before the special election, the Cook Political Report changed its rating of the race from "Lean Republican" to "Toss Up" after several weeks of off-track messaging by the Burns campaign and the National Republican Congressional Committee, and other telltale signs the campaign had lost its way.
Whereas the ads of now-Rep. Mark Critz had the polished finish of A-list Democratic consultants, several of Burns' first ads were worthy of public access television and not much else.