By the end of the piece he is by one constituent accused of being a rubberstamp for Bush and by another a rubberstamp for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. The writer, Jay Newton-Small, points out the demographics of the district:
"Can't we please stop the war?" Eugene Gabriel implored Congressman Jason Altmire, shouting over a singer belting out Beyoncé's Listen at the annual New Castle fireworks festival in western Pennsylvania. "That's what I wrote on my donation envelopes to you, both times, $200 a pop."
The freshman Democrat leaned into Gabriel's ear to make sure his response was heard: "We tried, but [President George W.] Bush vetoed it." The Democratic strategy, Altmire explained, was to keep the pressure up by continuing to schedule votes on Iraq and hope "that more Republicans will go to the White House and say, 'We can't do this anymore.'" The reply didn't quite mollify Gabriel, 49, a financial adviser who calls himself pro-life, pro-gun but antiwar. His son Michael, 22, is in the National Guard in neighboring Ohio; half of his division is expected to be deployed to Iraq in 2008.
Two hundred feet and 20 minutes later, having weaved his way farther into the crowd, Altmire faced another question about "the mess in Iraq," this time from William Proch, 71, a retired steelworker. But when Altmire again mentioned Bush's veto, Proch grew angry, accusing Altmire of being "in lockstep with [Speaker of the House Nancy] Pelosi, putting our troops in danger." The lifelong Republican voted for Altmire in 2006 after GOP ethics scandals left him wanting a fresh face. But because he also wants more troops in Iraq, not fewer, Proch is feeling buyer's remorse.
Though I'm not sure I'd agree with the assertion that the district "should vote solidly Republican." Last week I heard Bill Green (WPXI Political Analyst extraordinaire) say on NightTalk that the district was more Democratic than Republican (he pointed out that it was Ron Klink's old seat).
Altmire's district stretches west from the Pittsburgh suburbs to the Ohio border. In 2006 he wrested the congressional seat from three-term incumbent Melissa Hart with just 52% of the vote. The district should vote solidly Republican; on the same ballot, former Steelers football star Lynn Swann, the Republican challenger to Governor Ed Rendell, won by more than 20 percentage points. But the time was right for Altmire, a pro-gun fiscal conservative whose sandy hair, hazel eyes and freckles make him look far younger than his 39 years.
The narrow win--by just 9,798 votes--has made Altmire a top target of Republicans. Swann briefly flirted with the idea of challenging Altmire but announced last week he would not, opening the door for a rematch with Hart, who told local papers this month she plans to run again.
Coincidentally, Green did say that he thought that the seat would remain Altmire's after the 2008 election. He also said he didn't think it was a good idea for Melissa Hart to get into the race.
Bill Green said that.