Upper Bucks Still Awash In Red Electoral Ink

November 12, 2012

Parting the Red Sea is proving to be far more difficult for Democrats in Upper Bucks than it was for Moses in Egypt. Of course, Moses was on the receiving end of a Biblical miracle. Local Dems can only hope for one.

Despite the fact that the D's won every statewide race in PA, a quick glance at the Bucks election results map shows only three small up-county towns - Bridgeton, Sellersville, and Quakertown - standing out like little blue islands in the Red Republican Sea. We learned last week that while the Dems have indeed made inroads into Bucks, they have a long way to go around here.

In the entire state, now-and-future President Barack Obama outpolled Mitt Romney 52 - 47 percent. But that five-point difference is less than half of the margin that he won by in 2008, when he defeated John McCain 55 - 44 percent. The donkeys scored a slim win in Bucks, as Obama eked out a 50 - 48.8 percent margin based on the county's near-final totals, receiving about 160,000 votes to Romney's 156,000. This was due in large part to the strong showing in solidly blue-collar Lower Bucks.

Bucks also went blue for three of the four state offices, as Bob Casey Jr beat Tom Smith for Senator, Kathleen Kane topped David Freed in the Attorney General's race, and Bob McCord scored a slim one percentage point win over Diana Irey Vaughan for Treasurer. Only Republican John Maher prevailed for Auditor General.

But it was quite a different story in Upper Bucks, with the GOP taking easy wins in Richland, Milford, Haycock, Richlandtown, and Trumbauersville. The totals were quite similar in each town - Romney, Smith, and Freed scored decisive wins of 11-15 percentage points, except in tiny Richlandtown, where the margin was about six. The spreads were even more decisive for Irey Vaughan, which is surprising because she is from the Pittsburgh area, and did little advertising in the Philly market.

In the local races, the results were even more overwhelmingly Republican. 8th District Rep Mike Fitzpatrick easily won a third term in the U.S. House over Kathy Bookvar. His margin was 13 percent overall, but with spreads of 25 - 35% in Upper Bucks. The Intel even ran a follow-up story pointing out how difficult he will be to defeat in the future because of the Republican-friendly redistricting. "What makes taking on Fitzpatrick even more treacherous today is the district's new geography. The Democratic portions of Montco and Philly won (in 2008) by (former Dem U.S. Rep Patrick) Murphy have been replaced by the more Republican Indian Valley."

Forever State Rep Paul Clymer got his usual 65 percent or so in the 145th District to turn back Mary Whitesell, a good blue soldier who put up her second campaign fight against Clymer knowing that she had no chance.

A long-time local Democratic operative was blunt about the losses. "We got what we expected. This was not an election where people paid attention to anything other than the top of the ticket."

In the State Rep races, he explained "I've only looked at raw numbers, but all three Upper Bucks Democratic candidates polled 35 - 41 percent. Paul Clymer is well-liked and has done a lot of 'favors' for people. That's not a bad thing; it's part of his job. My belief is that while most think Government does a bad job, they think Paul does a good one. It's those favors through constituent services that make him virtually invulnerable.

Joe Frederick ran a fiercely combative campaign in the 143rd (just east of us), and still pulled only 38 percent. The farther north you go, the shorter the President's coattails. Anti-fracking had no impact whatsoever for Joe in the upper part of the 143rd, where the treehuggers live. He never was able to make the case that replacing Marguerite Quinn with him was good for up-county Republicans. They will take their chances with moderate Republican Quinn, no matter how you try to paint her otherwise. 2014 may prove different from 2010; Obama is a lame duck, and we have no Democratic congressman in Bucks County."

In Quakertown Borough, the President, and the state Dem candidates, each won by two to four point margins. That success is no surprise. The long-time GOP stronghold went blue in 2008, as the large Latino influx turned out for Obama. But contrary to the trend for the Philly suburban counties, the Dem influence in QT is waning. This year they supported the President by a 50 - 47.9 margin, with similar numbers for the rest of the statewide ticket. But in 2008, Obama defeated McCain by a whopping 58 - 42 percent. And the total number of votes for Obama declined 18 percent this time around, from 2309 to 1893, while Romney received 1811 compared to McCain's 1701, a six percent gain.

And while the QT Dems still supported their own in the national and state races, many split their ballots to give Fitzpatrick a 13-point win in the borough, and Clymer a 19-pont victory. This is certainly bad news for local donkeys in the 2013 municipal elections - when there is no Obama at the top of the ticket to bring out the same favorable 2012 voter demographic.

After Obama won the borough in 2008, every local Dem lost in the 2009 municipals. It may take a miracle of Biblical proportions to turn things around next year.