All the attention Republican groups have showered on Democratic U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright lately has led a Washington, D.C.,-based congressional race tracker to downgrade his chances for re-election.
The Cook Political Report shifted Cartwright’s re-election bid for the 8th Congressional District seat from “leans Democrat” to “toss-up.”
Cartwright won re-election in 2016 when President Donald Trump won the White House, but Cartwright beat badly underfunded Republican Matt Connolly by 7.6 percentage points. That was in a 17th Congressional District that Trump won by about 10 points.
That led many Republicans to view Cartwright as vulnerable last year, but he easily turned back former Wall Street executive John Chrin by an even larger margin, 9.3 points. That was in a rewritten 8th district that Trump also won by about 10 points.
Chrin carried baggage that hurt him and 2018 was a Democratic year, but Republicans think 2020 could be different with Trump back on the ballot.
Cook analyst David Wasserman’s downgrade followed Cartwright voting to impeach the president, but he also cited Trump’s presence on the ballot, the way outside Republican groups like American Action Network and America First Policies are “on track to spend millions” in the Scranton market and the emergence of Afghanistan war veteran and amputee Earl Granville as a candidate. Another Afghanistan war vet, Teddy Daniels, also a former cop and security consultant, and Luzerne County Councilman Harry Haas, a teacher, have also said they’re in.
The downgrade does not surprise me. Wasserman told me last year he thought things could be different for Cartwright in 2020 and beyond.
All that’s true, but Cartwright has proven quite durable so far since winning the seat in 2012, first by defeating incumbent Democrat Tim Holden in the primary election and then walloping Republican challenger Laureen Cummings in November.
Yeah, that Laureen Cummings.
He’s great at raising money, he’s moved into the House leadership and he’ll get a lot of help from Democratic groups, too. As of Sept. 30, the last campaign finance report available, Cartwright for Congress, had almost $1.05 million cash on hand. You can bet he’ll raise a lot more and Dem groups will help because he’s in leadership.
Two other trackers still like Cartwright’s chances more. Inside Elections’ Nathan L. Gonzales still has the race as “Likely Democratic.” Sabato’s Crystal Ball has it as “Leans Democratic.”