The Washington Times - May 19, 2010, 01:04AM

Hopes were high for Pennsylvania Republican candidate Tim Burns to pick up a long-held Democratic congressional seat in western Pennsylvania on Tuesday evening, but by 10:45 p.m. he had conceded the election to Democrat Mark Critz, a former aide to the late Rep. John P. Murtha, in the special election to fill Murtha’s 12th District seat.

Hotel party rooms sometimes can be telling in races such as PA-12’s. Last night, the Burns campaign festivities were interestingly similar to the campaign party at a boutique hotel for conservative Republican Doug Hoffman last November after a special election in New York’s 23rd Congressional District. Guests and media began arriving before 7 o’clock. However, as attendees engaged in poll-number watching around TV sets, the number of people in the room remained static and then began lessening.

By 8 o’clock, I realized the room was filled mainly with campaign staffers and supporters and not outside guests stopping by to congratulate the guy they knew would win. Food meant for a packed house remained largely uneaten, and tables in the party room remained empty. The scene at the small boutique hotel in Washington, Pa., last night played out similarly.

The Pennsylvania district favors Democrat registrations 2 to 1 and has a strong labor organization on the ground. However, Mr. Critz ran on a pro-life, pro-gun agenda and claimed to have opposed the Democrats’ health care bill. In other words, he ran away from the party he helped write legislation for on Capitol Hill. How much does Mr. Critz oppose the health care legislation? John McCormack over at The Weekly Standard interviewed Mr. Critz on that matter:

TWS: Mr. Critz, you would have opposed the health care bill, correct? 

CRITZ: Correct.

TWS: So why don’t you support repeal of the health care bill? 

CRITZ: Because I think in this part of the world, you know what we do? We work with what we have and we look forward. We try to fix what we have instead of going backwards. 

TWS: And do you think the health care bill currently — the law — pays for abortions?

CRITZ: No, I don’t.

One of Critz’s staffers then told me that the candidate was going to talk to supporters and when he was done, they’d give me some time to talk to him.

So I stepped aside for a couple minutes and when Critz stopped talking to supporters I asked him, “have you read the health care [law]—the abortion provision, sir?”

Critz didn’t respond.

It is likely a number of Democrats will try the same “conservative light” tactic in November, because if they run on the actual Democratic Party platform (pro-abortion legislation, pro-massive health care legislation, pro-gun-control laws and higher taxes), Democrats can really say goodbye to their majorities. Will Republicans, though, be capable of pre-empting such a strategy before then?