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In Pennsylvania, signs that 'Republican revolution' could repeat itself

In Pennsylvania's 17th Congressional District, a Republican challenger with little money poses a serious threat to a Democratic incumbent with deep pockets. Does the race portend a Republican revolution à la 1994?

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But he says the campaign is well aware of polls signaling that voters are being influenced by a strong anti-incumbent wave this campaign season. Indeed, many voters say they have little regard for members’ voting records.

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What’s more, the influence from the “tea party” movement is strong here, as it is in many Pennsylvania districts. At least 12 busloads of conservative activists traveled on Saturday from the 17th Congressional District to Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor rally at the National Mall in Washington. Argall saw two buses off from Harrisburg early Saturday morning.

“This is one of those years when it’s not great to be a Democrat, but we are keeping it positive,” says Mr. Nagy.

Pennsylvania races draw big outside contributors

At least 10 of the state’s 19 congressional districts are in play this November. Moreover, high-profile races for governor and US Senate are also drawing big money from outside groups into the state. State Attorney General Tom Corbett (R) is favored to win the open seat held by Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who can not serve any longer due to term limits, and former US Rep. Pat Toomey (R) is facing Rep. Joe Sestak (D) in one of the highest-spending races, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Aug. 27.

“Fundraising is a big, uphill battle. It’s more of a struggle than anything,” says Jon Hopcraft, Argall’s campaign manager. “We have quite a few targeted seats [in Pennsylvania], and we’re all going after the same sources.”

While making the money chase tighter than ever, this cluster of high-stakes races in Pennsylvania could also be an asset for Republicans as it could energize voters and compel outside conservative groups to get involved here.

Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a conservative group campaigning against government regulation and deficits, held a rally in the district earlier this month where Argall signed the AFP’s "No Climate Tax Pledge."

“Americans for Prosperity visited Lebanon County because Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi needs Congressman Holden’s vote for reelection to speaker of the House, along with votes for more wasteful spending and bailouts of failing companies,” Argall said at the Aug. 11 event.

The US Chamber of Commerce is also targeting Pennsylvania. The Chamber spent $36 million on issue ads in the 2008 races and is planning to spend “significantly more” this year, according to a spokesman.

While Holden broke with Speaker Pelosi of California on health care and climate change, outside groups are making the case statewide that a vote for a Democrat is a vote for Pelosi and the Obama agenda.

That message is growing louder among an electorate in Pennsylvania, and across the country, that is angry over jobs losses and the economy. That sentiment is expected to give GOP contenders a significant boost on Nov. 2.

“It will be a tough race, but anybody can be defeated,” says Lloyd Hampton, former Republican chairman of Schuylkill County.

“Tim Holden is very respected, but the expansion of government and the insane government spending is creating a perception that our freedoms are being taken from us," says Mr. Hampton. "Even to simply make a living is being strangled by government regulation.”