Last week Daniel McCarthy pointed to this National Journal article that discussed the strengthening of Democratic prospects in so-called second tier congressional districts (more on this in a moment). The article has this interesting detail for those interested in ‘94/’06 comparisons:

The latest Gallup poll has Congress’ job-approval rating getting a lot closer to 1994 levels. It stands now at 23 percent. In April ‘94, Gallup put the rating at 29 percent, and by July ‘94, the rating had slid to 27 percent in the Gallup survey. It wasn’t until late October ‘94 that approval ratings for Congress hit the 23 percent mark that mirrored what Gallup pollsters found this month.

Depending on what happens in the rest of the year, GOP fortunes might revive (though they have no legislative agenda worth mentioning and have already run out of time to push very much if they did have an agenda, and the war and Dobleve’s immigration buffoonery can only hurt them), but this must be a grim time to be a GOP loyalist. As the article goes on to explain, one reason why the Democratic chances of retaking Congress still seem remote is that they have recruited more “surfers,” the second tier candidates (who will ride the political wave if it comes) than able navigators.

However, as National Journal has been tracking the top fifty House races, they have found some stronger candidates for the Democrats, such as Fmr. Adm. Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania’s Seventh, who is challenging long-time incumbent Curt Weldon rather effectively. He has a surprisingly robust antiwar position, and so far this seems to be working in the same way that Paul Hackett’s antiwar appeal almost succeeded in Ohio.

Given that the big names on the Pennsylvania GOP ticket include Lynn Swann (known primarily for running past defensive tackles and his sports commentary) for governor and the embattled Rick Santorum, who are trailing Rendell and Casey respectively, Weldon is probably not going to get any help from a local pro-GOP surge if things remain as they are. The Seventh is an eastern Pennsylvania district (Delaware County), where Rendell is not going to be as great a drag on the rest of the ticket as he might be in the west, so strong anti-Rendell sentiment will probably not pull Sestak down. Weldon has enjoyed the benefits of incumbency and the rah-rah boosterism of our two recent Khaki elections, but the latter has disappeared and the former may not be enough to help him hold the seat in a district that has changed fairly dramatically in demographic terms to the advantage of Democrats during the last 10 years.

The pity with the prospect of Sestak winning is that Weldon has sometimes been one of the more intelligent voices when it comes to American policy in eastern Europe, he is not reflexively “hawkish” in foreign policy and is not and out-and-out Bush Republican on trade, but he has certainly done nothing to distinguish himself as a critic of the administration in any way.