Clinton nostalgia has its limits. Last night, Marjorie Margolies, the only candidate both Bill and Hillary Clinton have gone all out for so far in this election cycle, was crushed in a primary for a Pennsylvania congressional seat she once held.
Margolies was the clear celebrity candidate in the race. Her son married Chelsea Clinton in 2010, making her Chelsea’s mother-in-law. In 1993, Margolies was a freshman House member who cast the deciding vote in Congress for Clinton’s tax increases. She was defeated the next year in the wave midterm election that gave Republicans control of the House for the first time in four decades ABC News called her favor to Clinton “the most celebrated political debt of the year.”
Bill and Hillary Clinton went all out to campaign for her, each of them holding a fundraiser in her honor. Just last week, Bill cut a robo-call on her behalf touting how her vote “reversed trickle-down economics and set the country on the longest peacetime expansion in history — one that all Americans participated in.”
But a 37-year-old state legislator named Brendan Boyle cleaned the Clinton clock, defeating Margolies by 41 percent to 27 percent by sweeping the portions of Philadelphia in the district while Margolies won the tony Montgomery County suburbs. After a one-minute concession speech last night, Margolies whispered to her pollster, Celinda Lake, “It’s a shock.”
Boyle won because he used his shoe leather and union organizers to make up for Margolies’ advantage in TV advertising. He also blunted her attacks on his pro-life voting record in the legislature. “National pro-choice groups like NARAL and EMILY’s List have no problem declaring their opposition to Brendan Boyle’s anti-choice record,” Margolies said. But Boyle explained his votes to toughen regulations on abortion clinics in the wake of the Gosnell late-term abortion scandal were appropriate, and insisted he had “evolved” into supporting Roe v. Wade. Margolies also questioned Boyle’s commitment to public education, noting that pro-charter-school and pro-voucher groups had contributed to his prior campaigns. The attacks bounced off Boyle.
The district is overwhelmingly Democratic — 66 percent for Obama in 2012 — so Boyle will skate into Congress in the fall over Republican opponent Dee Adcock.