The Corner

Philly Suburbanites Rattle Murphy

Over on the home page, there is a video of Rep. Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.) being confronted by angry constituents. If you thought that the heat of Obamacare town halls had fizzled, think again. That’s bad news for Murphy, who represents Pennsylvania’s Eighth Congressional District, which sits just north of Philadelphia. PA-8 is a sprawling, suburban bellwether for GOP hopes this November. In the past, it has elected moderate Republicans like Jim Greenwood and Pete Biester.

This year, Murphy is being challenged by former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who lost his seat to Murphy in 2006 by less than 2,000 votes. Bucks County Courier Times columnist J.D. Mullane reports from the scene:

Fitzpatrick and about 75 people – supporters and tea partiers – arrived early and confronted Murphy. They insisted he change the format to “town hall,” a meeting style that proved devastating to Murf’s fellow Dems who supported the federal health care overhaul. From those confrontations last summer was born a score of delicious YouTube moments – nervous career politicians confronted by angry constituents demanding a “no” on ObamaCare.

In Middletown Saturday, the crowd was ticked – Murf had not held any town hall-style public meetings on health care last summer. Drawn from a side room by loud shouts, he emerged. He insisted he had.

“I’ve held big ones and small ones,” he said. “This is an official event, not (a) political (one) + This is not a town hall – this is not a town hall. Now that it’s the political season, people are trying to hijack this thing.”

Fitzpatrick moved to the front of the room and approached Murphy. They argued.

“This is not your event,” Murphy said. “This is not a political event and this is not campaign season,” Murphy said.

The congressman was rattled as video cameras rolled. It sounded as if he could not get out his words fast enough. His voice rose.

“Let me ask a question,” Fitzpatrick said. “Does anyone here insist on a one-on-one meeting with the congressman or do you prefer a town hall style?” he asked.

The crowd: “Town hall! Town hall! Town hall!”

As someone who grew up in PA-8, it’s a welcome surprise to see this normally quiet district get fired up over something other than the Eagles. Still, Fitzpatrick, who I once volunteered for while in college, has a tough road ahead, since Democrats hold the voter-registration edge. And Murphy, an avowed Pelosi-Obama ally, will have all the help he needs. But if this video is any indication, the tides are beginning to turn in the Philadelphia suburbs. If the GOP can win here, in a district that prides itself on its moderate and independent reputation — Obama won here, as did Clinton, Gore, and Kerry — it can win anywhere.

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