PITTSBURGH — Lawmakers raced out of Washington on Friday with significant unfinished business, including no path forward for how to replace automatic budget spending cuts scheduled to begin at the start of the new year.
But lawmakers appear more eager to go home and run for reelection — and with 43 days remaining until Election Day, they’ll have plenty of time to raise money and meet with voters.
That’s why 2chambers is spending this week on the road, for the second of our “5 in 5” trips, or stops in five House districts in five days. Along the way, I plan to interview the incumbent and his or her challenger, ask voters what they think of the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill and assess how President Obama and Mitt Romney’s campaigns are wooing voters on the ground in two key states — Pennsylvania and Ohio.
In August, 2chambers traveled from Des Moines to Chicago, covering a close race between two incumbents, a well-funded Democratic challenge against a national conservative leader, the campaign of a freshman Republican in a safely conservative district, and two hard-fought races in Chicago suburbs.
This time, I plan to travel from Pittsburgh to Cleveland to cover a moderate Democrat and his Republican challenger, another freshman Republican in a safely conservative district, a race between a current and former member of Congress and two key races in the suburbs of Cleveland.
Where exactly am I headed? Here’s the itinerary:
MONDAY: Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District: Rep. Mark Critz (D), left, faces Republican Keith Rothfus. Critz is running his fourth race in 2.5 years since succeeding the late Rep. John P. Murtha (D) in a special election in 2009. He represents a district much more Republican than before that encompasses the Pittsburgh suburbs. Rothfus is a second-time congressional candidate.
TUESDAY: Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District: Rep. Mike Kelly (R), left, faces Democrat Missa Eaton, a first-time candidate and former academic who Democrats don’t expect to perform well. Kelly is a longtime popular auto dealer in western Pennsylvania who capitalized on his frustrations with the Obama administration’s auto bailout in 2010 and defeated former congresswoman Kathy Dahlkepmer (D). He’s expected to win reelection and I’ll spend time catching up with one of the more outspoken members of the House tea party caucus.
WEDNESDAY: Ohio’s 7th Congressional District: #5in5 moves into the critical swing state of Ohio and plans to stop in a newly redrawn district that stretches from Canton, west to Mansfield then north to the western suburbs of Cleveland. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R), left, a freshman elected as part of the 2010 GOP wave, faces Democrat Joyce Healy-Abrams, another first-time candidate. Healy-Abrams is up on TV and is banking that her famous last name will help her in the region. (Her father represented the region as a state assemblyman and her brother is the mayor of Canton.) Gibbs defeated Rep. Zack Space (D) in 2010 and is running on an anti-regulation platform. ALSO WEDNESDAY: President Obama and Mitt Romney have scheduled campaign stops in Central Ohio. We’re planning on being at one or both events.
THURSDAY: Ohio’s 6th Congressional District: Rep. Bill Johnson (R), left, faces former Rep. Charlie Wilson, who is one of several Democrats defeated in 2010 who hopes to return to Congress. This district encompasses Steubenville and Jefferson County, an area profiled by The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach on Sunday. This race is all about economic development, job creation, trade policy and is another opportunity to see how Obama and Romney are doing in a critical swing region of the swing state.
FRIDAY: Ohio’s 16th Congressional District: This is one of two member-vs.-member races this cycle, where Rep. Jim Renacci (R) faces Rep. Betty Sutton (D), left, in a battle for the Cleveland suburbs. Observers say the contest will be determined primarily by who is elected president, as both candidates embody the messages and policies advocated by their party’s standard-bearers. It’s also an expensive race, because Cleveland is the most saturated market for political advertising, making it more difficult for candidates to penetrate a crowded television and radio advertising environment.
Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost.