A week ago, John Murtha, one of Congress’ most beligerent and spendthrift members, was cruising to another reelection. Then last Wednesday he said — on camera — that Obama may not do well in Western Pennsylvania because his constituents are racists. Today, he helpfully clarified that he didn’t mean call his constituents “racist,” but rather just that they’re “really redneck.” I’m sure those in Western Pennsylvania feel much better now.
I already noted that Murtha’s opponent, William Russell, wasted no time hammering him over this. Now the 527 groups are getting into the race, running their own ads. Prior to all of this breaking in the last week, a source close to the Russell campaign told me that their polling had them down 14 points against Murtha. But that same poll also had some good news for Russell — Murtha, even with a 14 point lead, didn’t have support over 50 percent, and 40 percent of those polled thought it was time for a change in Congressional leadership. Further, only 24 percent of those polled were aware Russell was running against Murtha.
Again, this was before Murtha’s comment. Russell is now up with hundreds of thousands of dollars in ads, even as Murtha gets more bad publicity. Russell’s name recognition is probably shooting up, and Murtha’s support was already very soft, so there’s plenty of room for Russell to move up in the polls. The odds are still against Russell, but he’s played this well and this race could be the sleeper victory of ‘08.