A nonpartisan political newsletter that analyzes elections said Wednesday that the First Congressional District race between incumbent Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and Democratic multi-millionaire and philanthropist Scott Wallace is a “toss up.”
The news is welcome for Wallace’s campaign as the race was previously considered by the well-respected Cook Political Report as leaning in Fitzpatrick’s favor.
“This is a clear indication that Scott Wallace has all the momentum in this race and that Brian Fitzpatrick’s smear attacks are not resonating with voters,” Wallace campaign manager Eric Nagy said.
Fitzpatrick campaign spokesperson, Genevieve Malandra, said Fitzpatrick’s race in 2016 was listed as a “toss up” but he won by nine points.
“For this current race, Nate Silver and FiveThirty-Eight.com have Brian Fitzpatrick as a 75 percent odds-on favorite at winning re-election. We are taking nothing for granted. Our campaign is focused on highlighting Brian’s positions on the issues that matter most to the voters of the First Congressional District, like fighting the opioid epidemic and fighting to protect Medicare and Social Security,” Malandra said.
Shortly after the May primary, Cook Political Report labeled the race as leaning toward Republicans, noting that Fitzpatrick was well liked in the district that is made up of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County. A Monmouth University Poll from early July showed a close race with Fitzpatrick slightly ahead.
“This Bucks County seat is a true swing district: it voted for Hillary Clinton 49 percent to 47 percent in 2016. It’s the kind of seat that should be atop Democrats’ target list in a wave,” Cook Political Report Editor David Wasserman wrote at the time.
Fitzpatrick, a former FBI special agent from Levittown who has framed himself as an independent, has faced some perception problems recently. A newer campaign ad that knocks Wallace draws a weak link to a convicted cop killer and has garnered criticism from Wallace’s campaign and Wallace supporters on social media. He also recently was extremely late to a candidate forum at a retirement community in Bensalem, drawing scorn on social media while his campaign blamed a scheduling snafu.
Not all of the blame for the recent problems falls on Fitzpatrick.
A series of ads from the National Republican Congressional Committee have also drawn some negative attention, including one that fact checkers have found to be misleading. Some hardcore local supporters of President Donald Trump have voiced concerns that Fitzpatrick is not conservative enough for their tastes and vowed not to vote for him.
One Fitzpatrick-supporting GOP insider told LevittownNow.com recently that they don’t see the more hard right side of the party causing a major problem come election day, but their lack of support at this point certainly is not helping the campaign.
“It’s a socialist or a Republican,” they said, noting many of those upset at Fitzpatrick will likely end up voting for him to stop Democrats.
Despite a shaky start with murmurs from some Lower Bucks County Democrats about whether Wallace was too elite or liberal for the area, the campaign has kept on message and worked to reach Levittown-area voters, including through TV commercials that feature Democratic Bucks County Sheriff Milt Warrell, a Levittown resident.
As one Levittown Democrat who volunteers for candidates put it: most Republicans who are not voting for Fitzpatrick most likely aren’t going to cast their ballot for Wallace, but Democrats have built-in support from members of the party who will vote to oppose to Trump and his policies.
Wallace has been partly self-funding his campaign while Fitzpatrick has support from deep-pocketed political action committees along with an active fundraising effort.
The two candidates will take part in more forums and debates as the race gets closer, allowing for more opportunity for campaign scores and slip-ups. And in 2018, one tweet or off-the-cuff remark from the president could change everything.