Congressman Ryan Costello has had a rough year.
He was pegged as a vulnerable Republican early on by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and hit with negative ads in April. He picked up a well-financed challenger and was dinged in the press after commenting that hosting a town hall meeting before hostile constituents might present a risk to his life and limb.
Now, Inside Elections, a nonpartisan handbook for national election odds, has downgraded Costello’s reelection chances in the 6th District, which spans Philly’s western suburbs, in the 2018 midterm election.
The area has trended Democratic in recent years and broke for Hillary Clinton in last year’s presidential race. Friday's report cited decent fundraising by a likely Democratic opponant Chrissy Houlahan – a clothing company exec and former Air Force engineer – although she still trails Costello by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Inside Elections has called PA-6 the “bellwether” district for 2018, as Democrats hope to use President Donald Trump’s chaotic administration to regain ground ceded in the national legislature. However, the downgrade still gives Costello the advantage – the ranking was shifted from “likely Republican” to “lean Republican.”
The DCCC, eager to further undermine Costello’s position, pounced on the news.
"This ratings change shows once again how vulnerable Representative Costello is ahead of next year's election," said DCCC Spokesman Evan Lukaske, in an emailed statement.
Costello's campaign naturally dismissed the report.
"Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies have been after this seat for two decades. Sooner or later their donors are going to catch on that this a fool's errand. Congressman Costello is well-positioned to win reelection in 2018," said Vincent Galko, a senior adviser to the Costello campaign.
Some prominent Republican consultants were similarly doubtful that the congressman’s position had truly eroded. There is evidence that Republican voters separate Trump’s antics from their local electeds – during Costello’s reelection last year, for instance, he notably outperformed Clinton by nearly 10 points.
“Democrats were all excited about southeastern seats last time, with Trump on the ticket. They lost them all,” said one consultant familiar with the race. “Ryan's seat added one-half of Lebanon County in reapportionment. They still love Trump there.”
The DCCC nevertheless plumped for Democratic challenger Houlahan’s credentials.
"Houlahan’s strong candidacy and real-world experience contrast nicely with career politician Ryan Costello’s abysmal voting record,” Lukaske said.