Thursday, November 6, 2008


On Tuesday, Chris Carney won his reelection bid convincingly against Chris Hackett. This was a district that many pundits had considered to be a "toss-up" early on and one of the few seats the Republican Party hoped to steal.

Based on early reports on Election Day, Chris Hackett was expecting record rural turnout which his campaign believed would work to his benefit. Obviously, in a district were Republicans outnumber Democrats by almost 40,000 registered voters, higher turnout would theoretically work to Hackett's advantage.

Hackett's campaign was correct that more voters turned out in the district--in fact, almost 75,000 more voted in the congressional race--but the results didn't break his way. It seems the consensus going in was that Lackawanna and Luzerne would go to Carney, but the majorities he received there would need to be offset by success in the western part of the district where Hackett had fared well in the primary.

Surprisingly, Carney actually underperformed in Luzerne based on his 2006 percentage, but pounded Hackett in Lackawanna. It was his success throughout the rest of the district that sealed the deal.

For instance, in Wayne County voter turnout exceeded 71%. This was a district that Sherwood won in 2006, yet Carney was able to steal. Not only does this likely reflect the increased Democrat registration throughout the district, but also that a "Republicans For Carney" contingent existed and helped his reelection bid.

In fact, if you look at the elections numbers compared with Carney's original bid, you can see why he was so successful. Not only did he expand his majorities in counties that he won in 2006, but he also stole all but one county from the GOP. In this county (Snyder), Hackett was able to hold it, but made no gains in building on Sherwood's proportion.


Carney--56.4% (159,072)
Hackett--43.6% (123,065)

Carney--52.9% (110,115)
Sherwood--47.1% (97,862)


Bradford County


Lackawanna County


Luzerne County


Lycoming County



Montour County



Northumberland County


Pike County


Snyder County


Sullivan County


Susquehanna County


Tioga County


Union County


Wayne County



Wyoming County



Carney's staff credited his town-hall meetings throughout the district as a big reason for his success noting he even held a meeting in Tioga County which only has one municipality in the 10th District
(only 60 total votes on Tuesday) .

Carney stated he looks forward to an ambitious second-term:
"I am anxiously awaiting our next term in Congress, where we can tackle the costs of health care, explore alternative energy and work toward energy independence, fight for more federal funding and jobs for our region, and continue to push for more middle class tax cuts. Working together, I know we can make this happen. To the voters of the 10th district, thank you again for this opportunity to be your Member of Congress."

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Road To Victory

Good look at the numbers games in 10th District:
Hackett won his Republican primary battle by sweeping in much of the southwestern portion of the district, winning Lycoming, Union and Snyder counties by more than 2,100 votes in an election decided by about 3,000 votes.

Assuming a 45 percent to 55 percent turnout on Election Day among registered voters district-wide — a conservative estimate, some analysts say, given the attention to presidential campaigns — about 194,000 to 237,000 people will vote in the 10th District. Combined, all counties, excluding Lackawanna and Luzerne, will see between 145,000 to 180,000 people vote. If Carney sweeps out of Luzerne and Lackawanna counties with a significant lead (he beat Sherwood by nearly 13,500 votes in those counties), Hackett will need to make significant ground in Snyder and Bradford, where Republicans double registered Democrats. That kind of lead in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties still might be too difficult for Hackett to overcome. Keeping with a 45 percent to 55 percent turnout ratio, there would be about 28,000 to 34,000 voters in Bradford and Snyder counties combined on Election Day. Even if Hackett wins 60 percent of the vote in those counties — a significant margin — he would gain 5,600 to 6,900 votes. In other words, any margin Carney pulls in Luzerne or Lackawanna counties has to be buffeted by Republican counties out west for Hackett to win.

Earmark Benefits

In last week's debate, Chris Hackett charged that Chris Carney received more than $100,000 in campaign contributions from companies that he secured earmarks for.

The Citizen's Voice investigated the claim and found that Carney actually received slightly less--$80,000--from those who received earmarks.

The $100,000 figure that Hackett used was much more generous since it included contributions from faculty at colleges where Carney received earmarks for as well as employees of companies that got the funds.

Carney's campaign manager Vincent Rongione responded by saying, "That is a very serious accusation. To accuse a government official of an illegal activity without proof is unbelievable. There is very little, if any, evidence at all to even try to make such a claim."

Mark Harris argued that regardless of the legality, "Congressman Carney directly benefitted from those earmarks by getting campaign contributions."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Campaign Moves To Billtown

Williamsport got a heavy dose of the Presidential campaigns yesterday as both of the Vice Presidential candidates were in town.

Senator Joe Biden appeared in the afternoon at Lamade Gymnasium at Lycoming College. During his stump speech, Biden used the Halloween holiday for his newest punch line. He said, "Look, I know Halloween is tomorrow night, but John McCain dressed as an agent of change, that's just one costume that does not fit. It does not fit."

Governor Sarah Palin campaigned up the road at Bowman Field in the evening. The crowd was energized and even chants of "drill baby drill" occassionally reigned down throughout Palin's speech. Palin used the stump as a chance to emphasize the differences between the two campaigns on taxes and energy.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thoughts On The 10 CD Debate

It was great to see these two candidates finally square off. I attempted to liveblog the debate to give those who didn't watch a better feel for how it went. It was also be aired on C-SPAN tomorrow night for those who missed it. Below are my initial impressions:

Carney won the toss and started the debate by stressing that he is a humble, bipartisan representative of a district who lives within its means. Hackett wasted no time in getting to the matter at hand by bringing up Carney's failure to hold more debates. He used the remaining time to detail his background and professional experiences.

The first question out of the gate utilized Hackett's opening remarks and asked if one debate was adequate. Carney emphasized he held numerous town hall meetings and he was readily accessibly to his constituents. He also noted that other important offices (the Vice-President) only hold one debate so this was no out of the ordinary. Hackett went right for the jugular early by saying Carney is hiding his record by continually saying one thing in the district and doing a different thing in Washington. This was a theme that Hackett hammered home throughout the debate (Washington Carney vs. District Carney).

In regards to the bailout, Hackett scolded the "must pass" bailout as doing nothing. He recommended a capital gains tax reduction to 0% for the next two years so more capital can flow into the markets and self-correct many of the liquidity problems. Hackett preempted Carney here by saying while Carney had not voted for the financial rescue, he did vote for the auto industry loan, the Fannie/Freddie bailout, and rescue for the sugar industry.

Carney noted that he had talked to bank presidents in the district and found they were properly regulated as well as financially sound. It was Wall Street which was the cancer. Because the Paulson plan was all Congress looked at and didn't have further hearings, he didn't feel comfortable voting for it.

Social Security provided the first contentious issue of the night. The candidates squabbled over who was scaring seniors more as Hackett made the program appear in dire straights while Carney exaggerated the risk implications of Hackett's market proposals. Carney suggested that Social Security was in sound financial shape as the trust fund had trillions of dollars and was earning interest. Hackett used the bailout as an example of Washington waiting until a crisis to do something and Social Security was another issue of waiting until a crisis.

The issue of earmarks also brought some fireworks. Most notably, Hackett stated that the district had lost $20 million in the transition from Sherwood to Carney and this was a problem with relying on earmarks for revenue. He followed that up by claiming Carney had received $100,000 in donations from companies that he provided earmarks for.

Carney allowed the statistical claims to go unchecked while suggesting earmarking was a beneficial process for the district. Less than 1% of federal budget is earmarks, but that single percent has an exponential impact on the projects in the district: it wouldn't be there if it wasn't for earmarks. Carney even went so far as to defend Nancy Pelosi's earmarking (money inserted in the farm bill for her district) by claiming Pelosi was "saving her people."

The finance of the campaigns was also brought up. While Carney acknowledged he spent more money thus far, he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for individual donations because he didn't have deep pockets like Hackett. Hackett suggested imposing term limits for campaigns to eliminate some of the money involved (2 terms for Senate and 10 years for House) and changing McCain-Feingold.

The most informative portion of the debate was on Hackett's tax liens. Hackett clarified that these were all legitimate challenges and not failure to pay taxes. For instance, he noted a $500 fine from the PA Department of Revenue. The taxes were paid by check and not through the electronic system (which he wasn't approved for). Hackett disputed this fine levied against his business. Carney didn't buy it and brought up the fine in Williamsport to which Hackett responded that it was a payment to the wrong party--much different than not paying as Carney implied.

The debate was rounded out by illegal immigration and military spending. On immigration, Carney stated there was a need for more personnel and tools to fight illegal immigration. Hackett agreed on no amnesty for illegals, but hammered Carney on his vote to de-fund construction of the fence. Carney rebutted the challenge by noting Hackett employed an illegal immigrant and used it as an example of the need to crack down on employers. The only big difference between the two on defense was which country was more of an immediate threat: Pakistan of Iran. Carney suggested it was Pakistan, and Hackett voted for Iran.

In their closing statements, Hackett repeated the points in his opener and noted the need to change politicians to change the culture of Washington. He also brought up the content of the Specter ad by suggesting one-party rule is dangerous. Carney closed by stating there was no bipartisanship coming from Hackett. Carney's credentials--as provided by the National Journal and his bipartisan parents--were much more fitting for the district.

My initial impression is that this debate was much better to watch than any of the presidential debates. It was much more entertaining, combative, and substantive. I think Hackett won the debate, but they both are very qualified politicians. I found Hackett's delivery to be superior and sharper. Carney stumbled over his words at points throughout the debate and didn't appear to get into a rhythm. Overall, I thought he was spotty throughout. [As a side note, I was curious who Chris Carney kept smiling and winking at to his right?]

Substantively, Hackett was ready to challenge the points against his character and prodded Carney on his vulnerabilities. However, Carney did deliver the best line of the night. During the immigration portion, Carney said that the border is not the NFL: two feet in bounds does not mean citizenship.

Another Endorsement

Chris Carney earned the endorsement of the Citizen's Voice yesterday:
With two years of significant accomplishments to his credit, U.S. Rep. Chris Carney from Dimock Township has earned the right to another term in Washington representing the 10th Congressional District.

Voters should choose Carney, a Democrat, whose moderate and pragmatic approach to many difficult issues facing residents of this region and the nation has proven to be a good fit for the rural and traditionally Republican-leaning district.

...Hackett has not yet shown the flexibility and bi-partisanship that will be necessary to address and fix the nation’s social and economic woes, many of which have reached crisis proportions.

Outside Influence

The Alliance For Retired Americans cut an ad for Congressman Chris Carney. The ad attempts to highlight some differences between Carney and Hackett on issues facing seniors.

It's not a great ad to begin with, but they seem to gloss over the fact that Carney has indeed supported making Social Security more personal with expanded investment opportunties. From Carney's website, "Workers should have opportunities and incentives to invest for their retirement, but not at the expense of the traditional Social Security system."

Hackett has stated: "I think workers in their twenties and thirties should be given a choice that would allow them to receive better than a 1% return on their retirement dollars. That’s why I favor creating voluntary personal accounts controlled by each individual, rather than by Washington."

Both rhetoric is very similar and focuses on preserving the traditional system while offering new opportunities to young workers entering the system. It is splitting hairs to say that Hackett supports "privatization" while Carney does not.

Carney also picked up the "Friend of the Farm Bureau" award for his support of the farm bill.

Frankly, after hearing Hackett attack Carney early on in the campaign on the federal government's agriculture subsidies, I thought he would continue to pursue the topic and distinguish himself from Carney on the idea of reforming the programs. But it's been an issue he seemed content with fading out of the campaign's focus.

While the NRA has decided not to endorse in the district,
Hackett earned the endorsement of the Gun Owners For America yesterday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Endorsements

More editorial endorsements for Chris Carney from over the weekend. The Daily Item endorsed him on Saturday:
However, since gaining office two years ago, Congressman Chris Carney has faithfully represented the traditional values embodied by 10th District voters, and for that, The Daily Item is endorsing Carney in his bid for re-election.
The Times Leader followed suite:
CHRIS CARNEY, who has a background in counter-terrorism work, displays a command of many of the most important issues facing the nation.

That knowledge, combined with Carney’s knack for voting independently rather than solely along party lines, makes him the better choice to serve the people of the 10th U.S. Congressional District, which encompasses much of Northeastern Pennsylvania including Wyoming County and Luzerne County’s Back Mountain area.
For their endorsement in the 11th District, the Times Leader went with Lou Barletta over Paul Kanjorski:
SEND LOU Barletta to Washington, D.C.

Although some people try to pigeonhole Barletta as a single-issue candidate, the Hazleton mayor who gained nationwide attention for his city’s attempted crackdown on illegal immigrants offers fresh ideas on a host of issues.

Another DCCC Spot Against Hackett

The DCCC had produced yet another ad highlighting the nine tax liens against Chris Hackett's business.

New Poll

A new poll out from the Lycoming College Polling Institute shows Chris Carney with a 15-point lead in his 10th District reelection bid.

The poll, which sampled 441 likely voters, was taken last week between October 19th and 23rd.

This new data slightly increases Carney and Hackett's polling percentages in the Local Values Average while decreasing the undecided category. The overall margin-of-victory for Carney is still hovering around 14%.

If I were involved in the Hackett campaign, what would be most concerning about these polling numbers is not the overall lead that Carney holds, but the fact that poll after poll has shown Chris Hackett's unfavorables to be higher than his favorables. This is the third poll in a row which has highlighted that trend.

That's not a good sign, and it signals that voters aren't responding to his campaign's message. I'd speculate that the DCCC and Carney ads have played a role in this as these spots have all explicitly questioned Hackett's character by attempting to expose him as a walking contradiction. They have essentially hit him with everything but the kitchen sink: his energy proposals and the
personal investments he holds, his tough talk on illegal immigration while hiring an illegal immigrant as a personal housekeeper, and his personal tax problems and "radical" tax proposals. Add in a bitter primary with Dan Meuser and you can see the issues with Hackett that are likely resonating with voters. I know Hackett has spent a lot of his campaign's time trying to paint Carney as a liberal out of touch with the distict, but he may not have done enough to address these concerns.

Hackett does have the opportunity to change the game slightly with his debate performance Thursday night, but with only a week left in the campaign these numbers don't bode well for the campaign.