New rankings list moves Pa’s Fitzpatrick to ‘leans Republican’; Lamb to ‘likely Democratic’ | Friday Morning Coffee

U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick. (AFGE/Flickr)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

new rankings list compiled by University of Virginia political sage Larry Sabato has three signs of encouragement for Democrats, and perhaps two signs of concern.

Good news first: Sabato’s rankers have moved U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, from ‘likely Republican‘ to ‘leans Republican.’ He’s joined there by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-10th District.

“Two Democratic internal polls of PA-1, a suburban district based in Bucks County in the Philadelphia suburbs, had Christina Finello (D), an unheralded and underfunded challenger to battle-tested Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R, PA-1), effectively tied with Fitzpatrick while [former vice president JoeBiden was leading Trump by double digits districtwide,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s “Crystal Ball” newsletter, wrote this week.

Given the redrawn seat’s stronger Democratic presence, “We probably erred in moving PA-1 to Likely Republican back in April. Fitzpatrick is a strong incumbent with a less conservative voting record than much of the rest of his caucus, but this is a battleground seat that he very well could lose, particularly if Biden carries Pennsylvania,” Kondik continued. “Fitzpatrick was held to an underwhelming 63% in last month’s primary by a Trumpier candidate, suggesting he has some work to do on his right flank, but he was still reelected in 2018 after taking a similarly low 67 percent in the primary. We’re moving PA-1 back to Leans Republican.”

U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, at an appearance at Robert Morris University in Allegheny County (WikiMedia Commons)

An additional bright spot:  U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb, D-17th District, who wrested control of a reliably Republican seat in 2018, is marked down as ‘likely Democratic.’ So there’s that.

Now the potential warning shots: Two seats in northeastern Pennsylvania, critical to Democrats holding their 50-50 split in the state’s 18-member U.S. House delegation are on the bubble: The 7th and 8th District seats, respectively held by U.S. Reps. Matt Cartwright and Susan Wild are both ‘lean Democratic.’

But before Democrats get too exercised about Cartwright and Wild, here’s the obligatory reminder that, right now, they have momentum on their side. President Donald Trump, who’s to pretend the pandemic doesn’t exist anymore and has instead chosen to refight the Civl War, is disastrously unpopular.

National polls, which exist solely for entertainment purposes right now, do show Trump trailing former Veep Joe Biden. More critically, however, battleground polls show Trump trailing Biden in such key states as Pennsylvania, while the president bleeds support among his core demographics, including, tellingly, seniors.

Then, there’s this bon mot from Kondik:

“Well-educated suburban districts, particularly ones that also were diverse, were a major part of the Democrats’ victory in the House in 2018,” Kondik observed. “Democrats captured many formerly Republican districts where Donald Trump performed significantly worse in 2016 than Mitt Romney had in 2012. Democratic victories in and around places like Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, the Twin Cities, Atlanta, Orange County, CA, parts of New Jersey, and elsewhere came in seats that meet this broad definition.”

That’s certainly the case for the Bucks County-based 1st District, as well as Lamb’s slightly more blue collar 17th District, which nonetheless includes the progressive enclave on Mount Lebanon, in the heart of Allegheny County’s increasingly Blue suburbs.

Things could be a little bumpier for Cartwright and Wild in their races. Cartwright faces a genuine Republican challenger. And Wild is a first-term lawmaker in a bellwether seat that has been historically Republican. But if it’s a good night for Biden and Democrats turn out in strength, the Blue Wave could certainly wash their way.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Intern Jordan Wolman, who’s had a bang-up two weeks with us, finishes out his rotation with his look at what a scrap over school funding in Lebanon County, involving veteran GOP operative Casey Long, tells us about the broader dysfunction in the way Pennsylvania pays for public education.

Pennsylvania finished the 2019-2020 fiscal year $3.2 billion in the red, that, while not unexpected, sets up a doozy of a budget challenge for Gov. Tom Wolf and the Legislature.

On our Commentary Page, Col. Charles Allen, of the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, has an Independence Day challenge for our readers. And occasional contributor Daren Berringer muses on what he’ll tell his daughter about the anti-racism protests he witnessed in Pittsburgh last month.

En la Estrella-Capital: El Senado le envía a Wolf proyectos de ley de reforma de la policía creando una nueva base de datos de mala conducta en todo el estado, detección de trastorno del estrés postraumático para los policías. Y Pa. el Sen. Casey habla con estudiantes universitarios sobre Biden, las elecciones y las luchas por delante.

(Patrick Feller/Flickr)

Elsewhere.
In response to the pandemic, Philadelphia has put off the reopening of its landlord/tenant court, the Inquirer reports. A statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures ends next week.
Allegheny County has ordered restaurants, bars to halt on-premises dining for a week, the Tribune-Review reports.
A man has been caught on video, expletives flying, ripping the mask off a female beer distributor employee, in Enola, Cumberland County, telling her ‘You don’t need that,’ PennLive reports.
Penn State student from Allentown, aged 21, has died from coronavirus, making him possibly the state’s youngest fatality, the Morning Call reports.
Newly discovered video shows Wilkes-Barre in 1928, the Citizens-Voice reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

Philadelphia restaurant owners are ‘scrambling’ to adjust to an indoor-dining delayWHYY-FM reports.
GoErie has the details on an effort to revamp Erie’s school police officers.
The Trump campaign has reserved $16.2M in Pennsylvania air time, PoliticsPA reports.
NYMag’s Intelligencer looks at the good news and bad news in the June jobs report.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to Dan Zampogna, of Commonwealth Media Services, who celebrates today.

Heavy Rotation.
Here’s one from Maggie Rogers to roll you into the long holiday weekend. It’s ‘Love You For a Long Time.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Baseball Link.
As training camp gets underway this week, there’s ‘no idea what to expect’ as MLB resumes play, USA Today 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