There is no question that Republicans are riding the tide of anti-incumbency and may do even better than the minority party typically does in off-year elections. But it also is obvious that they remain deaf to the issues that concern voters most and continue to believe their path back to power rests on shoving the party's national agenda down their throats.
Tip O'Neill's famous maxim that "All political are local" was proven once again in the special election on Tuesday to replace longtime and now deceased Democratic Congressman John Murtha in PA-12, a district in Pennsylvania's Coal Belt region, but the result was foretold in two upstate New York races.
In November 2008, Doug Hoffman got stomped by Democrat Bill Owens in safely Republican NY-23 after Hoffman belittled local issues as "parochial" and sang from the Republican National Congressional Committee's one-note "get Nancy Pelosi" hymnal. There was a repeat in April 2009 when Scott Murphy squeaked by Jim Tedisco in Republican-leaning NY-20. There also have been failed attempts to run against Pelosi and Obama in local races in Illinois and Mississippi.
Fast forward to PA-12, where Tim Burns, the Republican, had an excellent shot at defeating Mark Critz, a former aide to Murtha, in a district that voted for McCain in 2008. But Burns, who campaigned with over $1 million in RNCC moolah, got creamed by Critz, who focused on local issues and ignored Burns' from-the-hymnal attacks on Pelosi, Harry Reid and Obama.
Before Democrats get too carried away high-fiving, it should be noted that there was a less than pleasant subtext for supporters of the Obama agenda in some races. In PA-12, for example, Burns was the less conservative candidate and Critz is against health-care reform, among other Obama programs.
Nevertheless, the Republicans need 40 seats to recapture the House, but that goal seems further away today than it did this time last week and we can thank the party's penchant for nationalizing local races -- and reminding local voters how toxic that brand remains -- to the Democrats' successes.