In PA-08, a district that voted for Trump twice, Congressman Matt Cartwright faced a challenging race for reelection. In a tough midterm environment for Democrats, Cartwright needed to demonstrate broad appeal to win over both Trump and Biden voters against two-time challenger Jim Bognet.
First elected to Congress in 2012, Cartwright’s ability to repeatedly win in a conservative district reflects an authentic connection with voters over the past 10 years. In 2020, he was one of just seven Democrats to win his seat in a district that Trump also won. In 2022, he was the only House Democrat running that won in a Trump district in 2016, 2018 and 2020.
From the outset, GQR’s research demonstrated that Cartwright overperformed relative to partisanship. Our research showed Cartwright holding a slim majority of the vote, even though more voters identify as Republican than Democrat in the district. Our research also demonstrated that despite the partisan lean of the district, Cartwright received positive favorability ratings while Bognet was underwater.
Guided by GQR’s research, the Cartwright team understood that his appeal to voters in the district was largely built on his deeply rooted connections with his constituents and his record of fighting for working families. A key component of Cartwright’s broad appeal also centered on setting political division aside as he introduced more than 150 bipartisan bills during his time in Congress, the most of any Democrat during his tenure.
GQR’s research helped:
- Position Cartwright as a fighter. Initial communications re-introduced Cartwright to voters as a fighter by highlighting his proven record of standing up to corporate special interests and putting working people first.
- An example of Cartwright taking on corporate special interests centers on his efforts to rein in the big drug companies by passing legislation to take on corporate greed, lower the price of prescription drugs and cap insulin costs.
- Localize the race. By focusing on local, tangible accomplishments, the Cartwright team was able to appeal to voters across the political spectrum. Localizing the race also helped separate the race from national politics and inoculate from attacks tying Cartwright to President Biden.
- One local accomplishment that featured in communications was Cartwright helping bring a $6 billion gas plant to the district. This gas plant turns local natural gas into regular car gas, all while creating jobs and driving down fuel prices.
- Highlight an issue agenda focused on the economy. The Cartwright campaign kept the economy at the forefront, focusing on an agenda that advocates for working families by creating jobs, fixing the supply chain and lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs.
- Draw contrast with Bognet. We developed a strong contrast with Bognet who has spent most of his career as a political operative.
This strategy helped Cartwright win with 51 percent of the vote, solidifying his position as the only Democrat nationwide to win a fourth straight election in a district that Trump won.