All Eyes on Delaware Valley Voters

We're an early indicator for the midterm elections

In my last post I wrote that all eyes will be on the Delaware Valley election night as an early indicator of what might happen across the nation. There are so many close races in our area that will have a profound effect on the balance of power in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

New poll results this week reinforce my point. In the race for Arlen Specter’s seat in the U.S. Senate, Democrat Joe Sestak and Republican Pat Toomey are now in a dead heat. Just a month ago Toomey was up by double digits, and Republicans had already added Pennsylvania to the win column. If Sestak wins, the Republicans have no chance of winning control of the Senate. In the poll, Toomey got 48 percent of likely voters to Sestak’s 46 percent. Although Sestak seems to have the momentum in this race, the election will come down to one major factor — which side can get its voters to the voting booths on November 2nd. [SIGNUP]

And in Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, which is made up of Bucks County and part of Northeast Philadelphia with a sliver of Montgomery County, the Democratic party is spending a small fortune to hold on to the seat. And it seems to be working. A new Hill poll shows Democrat Patrick Murphy has pulled ahead of challenger — and former Congressman for the district — Mike Fitzpatrick. The Hill poll has Murphy with 46 percent of the vote and Fitzpatrick with 43 percent. You will hear a lot about “a wave election” over the next few days — an election that sweeps the candidates of one party into office. Republicans are hoping to ride the wave this year. Think of this race as an early surf report.

The same goes for two House races in the Lehigh Valley, where two Democratic incumbents are in tight races. The closest of the two races is in the 10th district, the largest district in the state with all or part of 14 counties, where two-term incumbent Chris Carney is tied with Republican challenger Tom Marino. A new poll by The Hill has both candidates getting 41 percent of likely voters. Marino was ahead in recent polls, so this race is another indication of Democratic gains in the state. The Republicans had hoped to pick up this seat, so it is another one to watch on election night.

The 11th District, which includes most of the Poconos, is also tightening. Hazleton’s Republican Mayor Lou Barletta has been leading 13-term incumbent Paul Kanjorski for weeks. The latest Times Leader poll has Barletta with 43 percent and Kanjorski with 41 percent. Mayor Barletta made national headlines when he pushed through an ordinance cracking down on illegal immigrants. Advocates on both sides of the immigration issue have strong interest in this race.

There are two races in South Jersey to watch, and again they are both held by Democrats. In the NJ-12, Rush Holt has served as Congressman since 1999. The district stretches from Pennsylvania across the middle of the state to the Ocean and includes Princeton and parts of Trenton. A Monmouth University poll shows Holt with a slim lead of five percentage points over Republican businessman Scott Sipprelle. In a clear sign of the mood of the country, this is Holt’s toughest re-election challenge. He has won the district with 60-plus percent of the vote in recent years.

Finally, in New Jersey’s 3rd District, this includes parts of Burlington, Camden and Ocean counties, freshman Democratic Congressman John Adler is facing a strong challenge from former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jon Runyan. The Monmouth University Poll has Adler with 42 percent and Runyan with 38 percent of likely voters.

Our area is truly Ground Zero in the 2010 midterm elections. In this post and Monday’s post I have given you a rundown of two Senate seats and seven House seats that the nation will be watching on election night. Both Senate seats and six of the House seats are held by Democrats right now. It is expected that both the Delaware Senate and House seats will be won by Democrats. That leaves the Pennsylvania Senate seat, four Pennsylvania house seats and two South Jersey House seats as the ones to watch. They are all held by Democrats. What happens in those seven races should be a strong indicator of what will happen across the country as polls close from time zone to time zone. Will it be a wave or just a ripple? The answer is in our backyard, and the balance of power in Washington is what’s at stake.

LARRY MENDTE writes for The Philly Post every Monday and Thursday. See his previous columns here. To watch his video commentaries, go to