Mixed message: In Pennsylvania, both parties had their victors

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If Pennsylvanians were hoping their results Tuesday would help end the gridlock in Washington or alter the political calculus in Harrisburg, they had reason to be disappointed.

Bob Casey's re-election helped the Democrats keep a hold on the U.S. Senate, but the same state gave Republicans added strength in the U.S. House.

Once considered a sure bet for re-election, Mr. Casey was forced to step up his campaign against Republican coal mine operator Tom Smith in the closing weeks. The challenger made a strong, well-funded bid for the job while sounding Tea Party themes that won some supporters, but not nearly enough to capture the Senate job in a large, diverse state.

Mr. Casey's return to Washington will contribute to his party's increased Senate majority, which will stand at 55 against the GOP's 45 if two independents decide to vote with the Democrats.

In the U.S. House, Republicans will maintain control with the help of Keith Rothfus' win in Pennsylvania's 12th District. The Edgeworth attorney defeated incumbent Mark Critz of Johnstown, in large part due to the GOP's tortured redesign of the district map, which made it difficult for any Democrat to win. Since Pennsylvania lost a seat in the national reapportionment that followed the census, the state's U.S. House delegation will go from a 12-7 split, Republicans vs. Democrats, to a 13-5 GOP advantage.

As if that weren't enough to show Pennsylvania to be a state of ticket splitters, voters chose three Democrats for the state executive offices of attorney general, auditor general and treasurer, while allowing Republicans to keep control of the Legislature.

Treasurer Rob McCord was the only one of the six major-party candidates in the three executive races who was an incumbent, giving him a huge advantage. But Kathleen Kane, the first Democrat and first woman to be elected as Pennsylvania attorney general, and Rep. Eugene DePasquale, grandson of the late Pittsburgh councilman, who won the job of auditor general, may have been helped by a strong turnout of Philadelphia Democrats and by the coattails of Barack Obama, who won the state 52 percent to 47 percent over Mitt Romney.

Although Ms. Kane, as attorney general, and Mr. DePasquale, as auditor general, could end up giving Republican Gov. Tom Corbett headaches, he is not likely to face the same from the Legislature. The voters allowed his party to retain control of the House and Senate, although Democrats shaved the GOP's Senate dominance from a 30-20 split to 27-23.

If this mixed result suggests that voters approached the races and candidates individually, rather than as a straight-party or ideological exercise, then there may be hope for breaking the gridlock yet.



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