A real referendum on hope and change is taking place in western Pennsylvania's 12th congressional district. If the change agent in the race were a Democrat and the status quo defender were a Republican, this battle would be all over the nightly news. The challenger would be heralded as a maverick and photographed with halo effect and angel wings. Instead, the national media have ignored him.
The Democratic candidate in this race has devoted his public career to back-scratching, logrolling and self-aggrandizing Beltway politics as usual. The Republican candidate is a fresh-faced newcomer and decorated combat veteran fighting to topple the arrogant old crony.
The Democrat supports the pork-stuffed, debt-exploding government bailout for the banking industry. The Republican opposes it. The Democrat supports a raft of illegal-alien amnesty measures. The Republican opposes them. The Democrat supports race-baiting campaign rhetoric and contemptuous smears against both American troops and gun-owning, Bible-respecting citizens. The Republican opposes those divisive tactics and reckless slander.
The symbol of everything wrong with Washington is 18-term Democratic Rep. John Murtha, king of congressional pork and infamous Abscam sting target who was videotaped entertaining a $50,000 bribe from undercover FBI agents posing as emissaries for Arab sheiks trying to enter our country illegally in the 1980s. Most recently, in June, the Democratic porkmeister was caught intervening on behalf of a law-breaking Pennsylvania company convicted of selling military equipment parts illegally overseas and knowingly violating national security rules.
The champion for hope and change is GOP challenger Bill Russell, a Desert Storm veteran, former Army lieutenant colonel and Army reservist who survived the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon.
I reported to you in this column on July 23 that Russell is "the man who could topple John Murtha." (His campaign website is russellbrigade.com.) Victory seemed like a nearly impossible miracle three months ago. Now, Murtha is on the ropes and finally feeling the heat.
On Thursday, a new poll by Dane and Associates put Russell ahead of Murtha by 48-35. A separate Susquehanna poll released Wednesday put entrenched incumbent Murtha up over Russell by just a little more than 4 percentage points. That's within the poll's 4.9-point margin of error. Murtha's in so much trouble he decided to cut and run from a scheduled debate with Russell last week.
Lesson: Slander has consequences.