Is Pennsylvania an Outlier, or are Things Looking up for Democrats?

Pennsylvania is supposed to be a swing state, one of the Big Three along with Ohio and Florida that dominates election nights. It has been leaning bluer in recent years: It went Democratic in 2000 and 2004, sent conservative Republican Senator Rick Santorum packing in 2006, and 2008 saw a massive switch to the Democrats in party registration, partly to participate in the party's exciting presidential primary. 2009 saw another blow to the state GOP: fearing an intra-party challenge from the vociferously conservative Pat Toomey, Republican Senator Arlen Specter switched over to the Democrats' side.

But, in a year that's supposed to be terrible for Democrats, the state's leftward drift was supposed to stop. Rep. Joe Sestak's challenge to Specter from the left was supposed to be doomed by Specter's support from Washington and greater name recognition. Meanwhile, legendary Democratic Rep. John Murtha recently passed away. Murtha represented the sort of district that is supposed to be trending Republican. Overwhelmingly white, blue-collar, socially conservative and hawkish on foreign policy, and its Democratic representation was assumed to be a holdover from the days when voters focused on pocketbook issues and unions held sway.

On Tuesday night, though, the results from both races, assumed to be very close right up until the polls closed, showed decisive victories for the more liberal candidate -- Sestak for Senate and Mark Critz, a former Murtha staffer, in Pennsylvania's 12th district. Even if the explanation for these results is primarily local, the perception will be that it is good news for the Democrats. At least there are some races they can, somehow, win this year.

Is Pennsylvania an Outlier, or are Things Looking up for Democrats? | U.S.