Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
PA 07: OPEN SEAT- Rep. Joe Sestak is running for Senate
Primary: May 18 2010
Location: Philadelphia suburbs
Days until the election: 30
This district seems to be shaping up as a great bellwether for the outcome of November's midterm election, and may even be a good predictor for the political dynamic in 2012.
Pennsylvania's 7th congressional district was wrested from GOP hands in 2006, when Rep. Joe Sestak beat ten-term incumbent Curt Weldon, and Republicans have a great shot at taking it back this year. Their candidate – former US Attorney Pat Meehan – is well funded, has good name recognition in the district, and has the advantage of what is shaping up to be a very good year for Republicans. The Democratic candidate, state representative Bryan Lentz, meanwhile, has the distinct disadvantage of being put on defense: he's representing the incumbent party responsible for the stimulus and the health care bill in a district with voters who aren't so gung-ho for those policies. Don't count him out – this race is a "pure toss up" according to prominent political analyst Stu Rothenberg – but Lentz has an uphill climb.
Meehan has outraised Lentz by roughly $500,000 ($1,645,036 compared to $1,027,855 as of the end of June) and has more cash-on-hand ($1,123,551 compared to $785,935). He has also been endorsed by a national tea party organization. He has carefully criticized the Bush administration for policies that led to the economic downturn, but has also heavily emphasized voter discontent with Democrats, who he argues have been unable to assuage a "sense of economic insecurity" in the country.
Lentz, an Iraq war vet, is also a former prosecutor. He is arguing that his experience in combat and in the state House makes him the best choice for voters. His message has been to appeal to middle class voters (in a middle class district) – and he has waged a very visible campaign, stumping feverishly around the district.
The candidates have both participated in a series of heated debates leading up to the final weeks of the campaign, and both campaigns are on the airwaves. This one will come down to the wire.