from Huffington Post:
# Pennsylvania 12th District
As a result of redistricting, fellow incumbents Jason Altmire (D) and Mark Critz (D) faced off against each other in the Democratic primary in the newly drawn conservative twelfth district in western Pennsylvania. With the help of local unions and Bill Clinton’s endorsement, Critz narrowly defeated Altmire in the April primary.
Since winning the primary, Critz — a “Frontline” Democrat — has been trying to distance himself from President Obama, who is unpopular in the district, and has announced that he will not be attending the Democratic National Convention. Since the district has a high number of of Medicare recipients, Critz has already tied his opponent, Keith Rothfus (R), to Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget, which would make significant cuts to the popular entitlement program.
The NRCC started running ads against Critz in the Pittsburgh media market in August, and has added him to its “Young Gun” recruitment program. At the end of June, Rothfus had more cash on hand than the Democratic incumbent. An August internal poll for the Critz campaign showed him leading Rothfus by ten points, but he has consistently been hovering at 50 percent or below.
This is shaping up to be the most competitive race in the state, and one of the most competitive in the country.
A much-watched congressional race outside Pittsburgh may provide the perfect laboratory for studying how the Medicare changes proposed by GOP vice presidential pick Paul Ryan impact the political landscape this fall.
The 12th District race between U.S. Rep. Mark Critz, D-Johnstown, and attorney Keith Rothfus, a Republican of Sewickley, is among the top targets nationwide for Republicans this year. The district, formerly represented by the late Democrat John Murtha, voted for Republican John McCain in 2008 and was redrawn by GOP mapmakers to be even more favorable for their party. The National Republican Congressional Committee’s largest initial television buy of the fall, launching Friday, will assail Mr. Critz here in the Pittsburgh market.
The district is also home to the largest percentages of Medicare recipients in the entire country. The Critz campaign targeted Mr. Ryan’s proposal to issue future seniors private insurance vouchers as its lead attack point on Mr. Rothfus early this summer and with good reason: Westmoreland and Beaver counties have the highest per-capita participation in Medicare Advantage in the nation, according to July 2012 statistics from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, followed by Allegheny County at sixth and Cambria at ninth.
The newly drawn congressional district goes from Beaver County through the North Hills and Westmoreland to Mr. Critz’s home base in Cambria and Somerset counties.
The Critz campaign pounced on the Ryan announcement. It issued a statement at 8:11 a.m. Saturday morning, more than a half hour before presumed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney formally introduced his running mate. Not too long after, the NRCC issued a memo to its candidates advising them of what language to use when discussing Mr. Ryan’s Medicare proposals.
“Do not say: ‘entitlement reform,’ ‘privatization,’ ‘every option is on the table,’ ” said the memo obtained by Politico. “Do say: ‘strengthen,’ ‘secure,’ ‘save,’ ‘preserve,’ ‘protect.’ ”
Republicans are trying to turn the tables by noting President Barack Obama’s health overhaul cuts Medicare, too. The president’s measure cuts future growth in the $1.3 trillion annual program by reducing certain reimbursements for hospitals, prescription drugs and private insurers.
“Did you know that [Mr. Obama has] taken $716 billion out of the Medicare trust fund? He’s raided that trust fund,” Mr. Romney said Tuesday in rural Beallsville, Ohio. “And you know what he did with it? He’s used it to pay for Obamacare, a risky, unproven federal government takeover of health care.”
But the proposal by Mr. Ryan, the head of the House budget committee, kept the same reimbursement efficiencies in the Obama plan while doing away with the rest of his signature health bill. He would plow the budget savings into allowing seniors, starting in a decade, either to keep traditional Medicare or obtain vouchers, which he argues would allow the private market to hold down insurance costs. In a finding often touted by Democrats, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said the change could increase seniors’ out-of-pocket costs by $6,350 annually.
“Medicare would be unrecognizable by 2022. Romney and Ryan would radically transform the program by giving seniors a voucher to buy health care coverage from a private insurance company or traditional Medicare,” said a memo that the Obama campaign’s Pennsylvania policy director, Sam Cornale, issued Tuesday.
Mr. Rothfus plans to hold his first press conference of the general election campaign Wednesday to address Medicare head-on. His campaign has also parried his opponent’s moves by tying the Critz criticisms of the Ryan plan to Mr. Obama, who even in Democratic polling is shown to be unpopular in the district. (A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll issued Aug. 3 showed Mr. Romney leading 51-42 percent in the 12th District.)
“Liberal Congressman Mark Critz has chosen to once-and-for-all align himself with President Obama in his fight to keep his political position and has elected to make his campaign solely driven by the same unfounded scare tactics used by President Obama — two career politicians, two desperate attempts to distract and deceive,” Mr. Rothfus said in a statement.
“[My] campaign is about getting people back to work, saving Medicare for our seniors by repealing Obamacare, and creating the kind of economic growth that will enable us to pay down our debt and provide for our families. I stand not with President Obama, but with the American people.”
The Critz team hit back by aligning Mr. Rothfus with the GOP establishment.
“Keith Rothfus is so out of touch with Western Pennsylvanians that even his political allies in Washington are telling him to quit talking about his disastrous plan to end Medicare and force seniors to pay an additional $6,400 per year for their health care so he can give the wealthiest Americans a tax cut,” Critz spokesman Mike Mikus stated. “Keith Rothfus can run but he cannot hide from the fact that his plan will be devastating for Pennsylvania’s seniors.”
Democratic opposition research on Mr. Rothfus includes a Facebook post he made in April 2011 on poll results showing seniors supported Mr. Ryan’s budget plan. “Appears that senior citizens understand that Paul Ryan’s plan offers a better way to save Medicare than Obama’s,” Mr. Rothfus wrote.
Mr. Rothfus lost District 4 in 2010 to U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, by 1.6 percentage points.