Pennsylvania's 8th District is often partnered with its neighboring
6th and 7th districts as an example of the rising suburban sway
in America. Sandwiched between left-leaning Philadelphia and right-leaning
rural farmland, the 8th District has been noted for its close
polls and swing potential.
This year, President Bush and his administration's policy in Iraq
could tip the balance.
"President Bush's low approval rating in the Philadelphia
suburbs and in the state of Pennsylvania as a whole is maybe the
driving factor," said Terry Madonna, a political scientist
at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa. "The drop
in approval rating of President Bush over the last year will cause
serious problems with voter turnout among Republican core voters
in the three major suburban congressional districts."
The 8th District is just north of Philadelphia and includes two
of the city's wards, a piece of Montgomery County and all of Bucks
After World War II, Bucks County was home to a booming steel industry,
but in 1991 most of the steel industry in the area shut down.
The county was traditionally Republican but has followed the trend
of other Philadelphia suburbs in favoring Democrats in national
elections; since 1992 the county has narrowly voted for Democratic
presidents. In 2000, 51 percent of voters chose Democrat Vice
President Al Gore. In 2004, 51 percent went with Democratic candidate
Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts.
In the district's U.S. House race, Republican incumbent Mike
Fitzpatrick faces a tough re-election campaign against Iraq war
veteran and first-time candidate Pat Murphy.
Murphy's campaign focuses on the war; Fitzpatrick's on his accomplishments
in his home district and his recent independence from President
In 2004, Fitzpatrick replaced retiring Rep. Jim Greenwood, a moderate
Republican who was first elected in 1992.
With Democratic strategists targeting the 8th District, Murphy
had little trouble securing the party nomination and Democrats
contend that in November, they can win the seat.
But Republicans say that Fitzpatrick fits the mold of the independent-minded
Republicans who have more often than not been favored by voters
in this district. His 76 percent score in a Congressional Quarterly
study of 2005 party unity was the lowest among the 12 GOP members
of Pennsylvania's House delegation.