John Murtha Seat in Trouble?

Academic Elephant reports that a new Public Opinion Strategies* poll has Republican challenger Diana Irey pulling within ten points of 30-year incumbent John Murtha for the PA-12 seat. While 55%-45% is a very comfortable lead less than four weeks from the election, he had a thirty point lead not long ago, has been transformed into a household name by his grandstanding on the Iraq War, and was considered unbeatable.

Given the general unpopularity of the war, one would think Murtha’s anti-war stance would be helping, not hurting. Presumably, though, his inflammatory language has hurt him. It’s a delicate balancing act to campaign against a war in which our troops are presently fighting and dying.

Looking at AE’s post and his link to Irey’s website, most of the campaigning against Murtha is focusing on three issues: Murtha’s intemperate remarks about the war, Murtha’s role in the 26-year-old ABSCAM scandal, and the fact that Congress has raised its pay considerably during Murtha’s tenure.

The last issue is one that I find really annoying–one would hope any job would pay a lot more now than in 1980 and Members make rather little money compared to others in positions of similar prestige–but it never fails to resonate with the electorate. I’m surprised that ABSCAM is still getting any traction, given that Murtha has been re-elected 12 times since then and that Keating 5 doesn’t seem to be hurting John McCain.

UPDATE: AllahPundit notes ABSCAM is “more recent than the racial slur allegations Dems have been tossing at George Allen.” True that.

*Full disclosure/disclaimer: My wife is a VP at the firm. This is the first I’ve heard of the results; indeed, I wasn’t aware Irey was a client.

FILED UNDER: 2006 Election, Congress, Public Opinion Polls, , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. B. Minich says:

    The raising pay thing, while probably a bit unfair, is playing into current Pennsylvania politics, with the pay raise shenanagians the state House and Senate pulled. People lost seats for that, some close to or inside of Murtha’s district.

    Also, I used to live in Murtha’s district. I would classify it as fairly moderate, but it is very rural, which makes it conservative enough to beat Murtha (except for the university it contains, and the moderate sized city, Johnstown, which is his power base). I had a feeling that once voters had both a reason to dislike Murtha and a strong challenger, they would give him a run for their money. The state legislature’s tatics were a bit more blatant and also broke the constitution of the state: trying to tar Murtha with the label “pay raiser” can play into the negative feelings Pennsylvania voters have against the state bodies.

    He HAS brought a lot of pork home, though, so this setiment might not override the “but he’s good for the region” card that his supporters will play. But Irey has given him his first real challenge for years. I don’t remember a time when a challenger was within 10% of Murtha. I still think he’ll win, but Irey being so close is a suprise.

  2. B. Minich says:

    Ooops – the last sentence of the second paragraph should be on the end of the first paragraph. It makes more sense that way. Sorry!

  3. chancuff says:

    Longwinded rant in violation of site policies deleted.

    UPDATE: Commenter banned after second attempt to post same spam.

  4. Tano says:

    I wonder to what extent the scene from Woodward’s recent book is going to get some circulation in this campaign. The one where General Abezaid goes to Murtha’s office, sits down, holds up his thumb and index finger a quarter of an inch apart, and says something like “we are this close” on Iraq war issues.

    Would seem to me to take all the air out of the RW outrage over Murtha’s war position.