My biggest takeaway from the surprising outcome in PA-12 last night, besides the fact that Mark Critz and the DCCC did an amazing job? There's a limit to just how unpopular Republicans can be and still hope to make gains everywhere this fall.
Barack Obama's mid-30s approval rating in the district got more ink, but the number that may have ended up being even more relevant to last night's outcome was the putrid 22% approval rating for Congressional Republicans with 60% disapproving of them. Given that our final survey overestimated GOP performance in the district it's entirely possible that actual support for the Republican leadership in Washington is under 20%.
Critz successfully separated voters' feelings about him from their unfavorable feelings toward his party's standard bearer. The results suggest that Burns was not successful enough in separating himself from his unpopular national party.
One other key finding on our PA-12 poll- only 28% of voters in the district thought Republicans did a good job running the country while George W. Bush was President. 63% think they did not. That -35 spread is 15 points worse than the -20 spread we found for Obama's approval in the district.
Voters in PA-12 are not real thrilled with how Democrats are running the country right now. But they have an even dimmer view of the Republicans, and until the party can present itself as a more appealing alternative it may not be able to make gains to the extent you would expect in this political climate.