In the lull of summer, both candidates are focused on the basics of campaigning — knocking on doors and raising cash — ahead of an inevitably intense fall battle in which Bartlett looks like the underdog.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report and Rothenberg Political Report both rate Bartlett and Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.) as the two most endangered Republican incumbents in the country. A Delaney campaign poll released after the primaries showed him leading Bartlett by nine points.
“I think things would have to go pretty far south nationally for Democrats for Bartlett to have a chance,” said David Wasserman, the Cook Report’s House editor.
Yet Bartlett remains optimistic that voters will send him back to Congress for an 11th term.
“It’s a competitive race,” Bartlett said last Monday in Frederick, where he hosted his annual Go Green Energy Conference at the county fairgrounds.
When they drew the new congressional map last year, Democratic leaders in Annapolis chopped off the Republican-leaning eastern portion of Bartlett’s district, while adding a slice of more liberal Montgomery County, where voters have never seen Bartlett’s name on the ballot.
“We’re working hard to get acquainted there, and I think that people are learning who we are, and we feel pretty positive about it,” Bartlett said.
Bartlett’s outreach includes emphasizing views — such as his longtime support for renewable energy, highlighted at last week’s conference — that might be appealing to moderates. “Many of my fellow Republicans, they haven’t had time to properly focus on this,” Bartlett said of the need to find alternative energy sources.
But Democrats think Bartlett’s 20-year voting record, in which has been solidly conservative on most issues, will undermine any such effort. He has a lifetime legislative rating of 93 percent from the American Conservative Union.
At 86, Bartlett is the second-oldest member of the House. A Seventh-day Adventist with 10 children, he is a scientist and former college professor who also raises goats on a sprawling farm in Buckeystown.
It’s difficult to assess where or how much Bartlett has been appearing in the district, because his campaign has repeatedly declined to provide any information about his schedule or allow reporters to tag along. (The same was true during the Republican primary.)
Still, local Republicans said he has been a frequent presence on the trail.
“I’m seeing a lot of active campaigning [from Bartlett], more so in Montgomery County than Frederick County,” said Stephen Gottlieb, chairman of the Frederick County Republican Central Committee. But because of redistricting, Gottlieb is worried that many voters in the area don’t realize who will be on their ballots in November. “My concern is I don’t think enough people are engaged in this,” Gottlieb said.