Are these 2 Pa. U.S. House races the canary in the coal mine for Trump? | Monday Morning Coffee

PPL Tower in Allentown (Flickr Commons photo)

Good Monday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

We’re just 22 days out from Actual Election Day, and new polling and analysis from a pair of Pennsylvania congressional districts holds food for thought for both Joe Biden’s and President Donald Trump’s respective campaigns.

We’ll start this morning with the Lehigh Valley-based 7th Congressional District, a seat currently held by freshman Democratic U.S. Rep. Susan Wild.

Long an electoral bellwether, the three-city area of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton was key to Trump’s victory in 2016. As the Morning Call reported in May, Northampton County was one of three counties that Trump flipped on his way to squeaking out a win by a little more than 44,000 votes.

Four years later, recent polling by the Morning Call and Muhlenberg College showed Wild up 52-39 percent over GOP challenger Lisa Scheller, while Biden held a 7-point lead in the canvass of 414 likely voters. The poll had a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

Wild’s lead was stronger than her 7-point lead over GOP rival Marty Nothstein in 2018 in a pre-election poll. Hillary Clinton carried the district by just 1 percent over Trump in 2016.

Wild’s lead this year is significant enough for University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter to move the seat from ‘leans Democratic‘ to ‘likely Democratic,’ in a recent update. The move mirrors one by the Cook Political Report, which similarly moved Wild’s race to ‘leans Democratic’ last week.

(Sabato’s Crystal Ball graphic)

And then there’s the neighboring 8th Congressional District, held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, who’s facing former Trump administration aide Jim Bognet in a seat that includes Biden’s old hometown of Scranton. 

As was the case with WildSabato’s wonks have moved the 8th CD from ‘leans Democratic’ to ‘likely Democratic’ in its new round of ratings updates.

And while both Wild and Cartwright have “competent GOP challengers,” the big tell here is that “key Republican outside groups do not appear likely to spend big outside dollars … which indicates to us that the incumbents are in decent shape for the stretch run,”  Crystal Ball’s Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman observed.

The 8th District includes all of Wayne, Pike, and Lackawanna counties, along with almost all of Luzerne and Monroe counties. Trump romped in the district in 2016, also notably flipping Luzerne County, another Obama-friendly county, sparking a veritable cottage industry of op-Eds, think pieces, and books about the flight of white, working class voters from the Dems to the isolationist embrace of Trumpism.

While there’s a paucity of reliable polling in the district, Kondik and Coleman again look to externals for signs that the 8th District might not be as friendly to Trump as once it was. They specifically point to the fact that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently cut its spending in the district, which was taken as a vote of confidence in Cartwright.

The 7th and 8th are “the kinds of districts where Trump needs to perform well — arguably, even better than he performed in 2016 — to once again win Pennsylvania, and that Republicans really need to compete for in order to win a House majority. But the region may not be as hospitable to Trump as it was four years ago,” Kondik and Coleman observed.

In other words, stay tuned.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
In this week’s edition of the Numbers RacketCassie Miller runs down the data on natural gas production in the state in 2019.

From our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper, here’s everything you need to know about the Citizens Police Review Board ballot question.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Anwar Curtis catches you up with a book club that’s become a gathering spot for Black men in Harrisburg. And a North Carolina State University expert offers up a policy prescription for protecting people from PFAS chemicals.

En la Estrella-Capital: Pa. anuncia nuevos límites de ocupación durante el COVID-19. Y Pa.’s Casey: Ley de Cuidado de Salud Asequible en ‘grave peligro’ si Barrett es confirmada a la Corte Suprema.

Elsewhere.
The Inquirer
 examines the connection between knowing someone who has died, or been hospitalized, and taking the pandemic seriously.
The Christopher Columbus statue in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park was wrapped and taped ahead of Indigenous People’s Day, the Post-Gazette reports.
The ‘Burg runs down the Harrisburg organizations seeking state grant money for big development projects.
House Insurance Committee Chairwoman Tina Pickett has reaped big donations from the industry she’s charged with overseeing, the Morning Call reports.
The Citizens-Voice interviews NEPA college students about their presidential picks.

Here’s your #Harrisburg Instagram of the Day:

This Indigenous Peoples’ Day, activists in suburban Philadelphia are calling for more than just marchingWHYY-FM reports.
WITF-FM explains how Democrats could flip the state Legislature. 
Rocked by unemployment — and unsteady budgets — states are trying to avoid tax hikes, Stateline.org reports.
PoliticsPA runs down last week’s winners and losers in state politics. 
In case you missed it, President Donald Trump has claimed, without evidence, that he’s immune to COVID-19. He’s also feuding with Anthony Fauci. NY Mag’s Intelligencer has the details.

What Goes On.
All quiet for Indigenous People’s Day under the Dome.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
The same cannot be said of the wheels of fundraising, which grind ever onward. State Rep. Tim O’Neal holds an 11 a.m. golf outing at Valley Brook Country Club in lovely Canonsburg, Pa. Admission runs from a merely ridiculous $500 all the way up to a truly offensive $10,000, dependent, as ever, on the intensity of your desire to bask in his reflected glow.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s new music by Thievery Corporation’s Eric Hilton. It’s ‘The Impossible Silence.’ And it’s a chill way to ease into a new working week.

Monday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link.
Looks like Liverpool’s 7-2 thrashing by Aston Villa left a mark: The Reds and Manchester United are floating a plan to dramatically reshape professional football that finds the English Football League and Premiership in pitched battle, the Guardian reports.

And now you’re up to date.

John L. Micek
A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press