Murtha Race Tightens After 'Racist,' 'Redneck' Remarks
Rep. John Murtha finds himself in a statistical tie in his re-election bid as Western Pennsylvanians take issue with being called "racist" by their congressman.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Rep. John Murtha, who recently called constituents in his western Pennsylvania town "racist" because Barack Obama may not win big there, is 4 points ahead of his Republican challenger, retired Army Lt. Col. William Russell, within the Susquehanna Poll's 4.9-point margin of error.
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review ordered the poll of 400 likely voters on Tuesday as discussion centered on Murtha's comments. The 18-term Democratic congressman apologized for his initial statement by saying he meant only that skin color will be a factor in the race between Obama and John McCain. Murtha later said many Western Pennsylvanians were "rednecks" until recent years.
Russell, who served in Iraq, is the first challenger to give Murtha a run for his money in years. His campaign told the newspaper it was buoyed by another statistic in the poll -- the 54 percent of voters who said it's time someone else represented them in Congress. Thirty-five percent say Murtha, a Vietnam veteran, should be re-elected.
The poll comes as internal polling leaked from the Obama camp showed the Democratic candidate only 2 points ahead of McCain in the Keystone State, suggesting the race is much closer than the Quinnipiac poll out Thursday that shows Obama with a 13-point lead in the state.
Pennsylvania voted for Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 election, but is seen as one of the few blue states that could swing red this year. McCain has spent considerable time in the state.
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, a McCain supporter, said a lot of eyes are on Pennsylvania because of comments like Murtha's, as well as Obama's remarks about spreading the wealth and redistributing income as a means to prosperity.
"That really riles people up and they are citing that everywhere and they are upset about it," Brownback said of Murtha's remarks. "The politicians say, 'This is what I think about you folks here,' and they don't like it and they are fired up about it, and they're getting involved."