Remember primary elections? Tomorrow we’ll have the first presidential or congressional vote in three weeks, an eternity in politics. It’s also the first balloting since Rick Santorum removed himself from contention April 10 as Mitt Romney’s major challenger for the Republican nomination.
Here are three things to watch in tomorrow’s contests.
1. The anti-Romney vote: With Santorum out of the race, Romney should overwhelmingly win primaries in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Rhode Island. Still, it’s worth watching the vote turnout and how much of an anti-Romney vote there will be. Romney won just 39 percent of the popular vote in Republican primaries and caucuses in 31 states and the District of Columbia, and one of his tasks is to unify and energize Republicans against President Barack Obama. All five states lean Democratic in general elections, though Pennsylvania could be a Romney target in November.
2. Altmire-Critz member-vs-member showdown: Either Jason Altmire or Mark Critz will lose his U.S. House seat tomorrow in Pennsylvania, a result of a Republican-controlled redistricting process that effectively forced the two Democrats to seek the same western Pennsylvania district. Altmire, who represents suburbs of Pittsburgh, represents more of the reconfigured district than Critz and has more seniority. Critz, of Johnstown, has backing from labor unions and former President Bill Clinton.
3. Will Holden survive? In eastern Pennsylvania, 10-term Democratic Representative Tim Holden faces a serious, well-funded challenge in the primary from Matt Cartwright, a lawyer. Republicans redrew Holden’s district to include hundreds of thousands of people he doesn’t currently represent, many of them Democrats from Cartwright’s home area of Scranton. Cartwright is portraying himself as a more loyal Democrat than Holden, who voted against the 2010 health-care overhaul.
A Holden loss would be another blow for Democratic centrists in Congress, namely the Blue Dog Coalition of Democrats who emphasize fiscal restraint. Several Blue Dogs aren’t seeking re-election this year and some others are politically vulnerable as a result of redistricting.