The race in the sixth district of Pennsylvania is one of the closest races in the United States. The candidates in the race are incumbent Jim Gerlach (R) and Lois Murphy (D) and their goal is to win a seat in the House of Representatives. But, this is not the only time in which these two candidates have gone head to head. In 2004, Gerlach and Murphy were in the same position they are now. Gerlach, however, was doing better in 2004 than he is now. In 2004, Gerlach defeated Murphy by about 7,000 votes. Now, however, numbers show that the race is much closer than in 2004. In late August 2006 numbers indicated that Murphy was ahead of Gerlach 50% to 45%. A September 13-14 poll, however, revealed that these numbers had changed with Gerlach leading Murphy 47 to 36 percent. The most recent poll, released on September 28, shows a slight change in the numbers. This poll indicates that Gerlach is still in the lead, 44 to 41 percent.
These numbers, however, are not 100 percent accurate. A recent article in The Hill, a newspaper dedicated to writing for and about the U.S Congress, expresses that polls are indicative only of current trends but do not necessarily predict an outcome. This means that although Murphy was ahead in August and Gerlach has taken the lead in September, much can happen between now and November 7 which could possibly change the way people think, especially when it comes to the issues.
At this point in the race, neither candidate seems to be concentrating on stressing the importance of issues in their campaign. Murphy is busy trying to tie Gerlach to President Bush in the hopes that Bush’s dismal approval rating will rub off on Gerlach. Murphy’s campaign strategy focuses mostly on discrediting Gerlach in the eyes of voters, on the Iraq war, and on local issues such as the job market. Her pamphlets are, for the most part, a way of publicly bashing Gerlach. Meanwhile, Gerlach seems to steer clear of any topic which deals with Bush and has publicly acknowledged that when he thinks President Bush is wrong, he tells him so. Gerlach has also concentrated somewhat on the state of the national economy and, more recently, on environmental issues. In fact, Congress passed Gerlach’s proposed open spaces bill on September
27. The bill sets aside federal dollars to encourage the protection of open space and farmland.
Public bashing and discrediting may be helpful to Murphy sometimes but when Murphy’s hometown newspaper acknowledges that all the public knows about Lois Murphy is that she hates Jim Gerlach, it does not reflect well on Murphy’s campaign. Mark Campbell, a Gerlach political director, was recently quoted in The Tribune Review as saying that Murphy’s “campaign of accusations” has failed, a fact which may be reflected in the recent polls.
Gerlach can be given a little more credit than Murphy for highlighting the issues. One of his pamphlets highlights all the issues which are important to him and which he believes should be important to voters. Some of these issues include taxes, health care, job creation, education, immigration and farmland preservation. Also on the pamphlet, the words “Jim’s Honest, Independent & He Gets Results!” prompt voters to take Jim seriously. The word independent, though, once more alienates him from any connection to President Bush and to the Republican Party.
It is too early to tell who will actually win the election. Both candidates are diligently campaigning, each in their own way, to sway voters to their side. But, if the polls have anything to show it is that this is a very close race. Despite the propaganda and the campaigning each candidate has put out there, it seems that the voters still cannot make up their mind about either candidate. The negative campaigning each candidate has done recently does not seem to have the desired effect. While Murphy works towards destroying Gerlach’s reputation, Gerlach is fighting to hold on to it and separate himself from any association with Bush. It will be interesting to see what happens in the month before election time.