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Poll: Rothfus holds marginal lead over Critz in 12th

Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Marc Critz addresses supporters during an election night party at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown on Tuesday, April 24, 2012.

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Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 12:21 a.m.

Janina Merigliano is fed up.

Despite all the promises she hears on television, Washington remains gridlocked, the debt keeps growing, and her taxes keep rising as her three kids approach college age.

So when U.S. Rep. Mark Critz and Republican challenger Keith Rothfus ask for her vote, the Hampton Republican said she's more than a little skeptical.

“I just feel that they say things to get elected, and then they get in and they don't follow through. I'm fed up with the whole system,” said Merigliano, 45.

She's among 12 percent of undecided voters whose eventual choice will decide a very close 12th Congressional District race, according to a Tribune-Review poll conducted Oct. 1 and 2 by Susquehanna Polling & Research.

Forty-five percent of likely voters back Rothfus, 50, of Sewickley compared with 43 percent who support Critz, 50, D-Johnstown. The poll of 950 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.18 percentage points.

“If all the Democrats who are undecided break for Critz and all the Republicans who are undecided break for Rothfus, you're back to a 50-50, razor-thin race,” said Susquehanna Polling President Jim Lee.

Critz's campaign questioned the Rothfus lead.

“These results are not surprising, given that this is coming from a Republican polling firm,” said Critz campaign manager Mike Mikus. “Mark Critz is well positioned to win this race because he's standing up for jobs by opposing unfair trade deals that ship jobs overseas, while Keith Rothfus supports the unfair trade deals ... and wants to turn Medicare into a voucher system that will cost seniors an additional $6,400 more per year.”

The Rothfus campaign said the poll confirmed the race is a “dead heat.”

“This poll verifies the continued upward movement of Keith Rothfus as people get to know him and learn about his sharp policy differences with Congressman Critz,” said Rothfus campaign manager Jon Raso.

Raso accused Critz of being too cozy with President Obama, who is losing the district 55 percent to 44 percent to Republican Mitt Romney, the Susquehanna poll shows.

“Critz voted to keep Obamacare; Keith Rothfus will vote to repeal it in order to save Medicare for our seniors,” Raso said.

Republicans redrew the district after the 2010 census, combining parts of the former 4th and 12th districts across Cambria, Somerset, Westmoreland, Allegheny, Beaver and Lawrence counties. Critz beat Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, in the primary, on the strength of huge margins of victory in Cambria and Somerset counties — parts of his old district, where he's better known.

“I think Obama's going in the wrong direction, and we've got to get back to the things that Bush was doing,” said James Cunningham, 71, of Monroeville.

His dissatisfaction with the country's direction turned him against the incumbent. “Critz ain't doing anything spectacular. I'll try Rothfus for a change.”

The Critz-Rothfus battle has become one of the country's marquee House races, attracting millions of dollars from national Democratic and Republican political organizations and warranting a campaign visit from former President Bill Clinton on Thursday on behalf of Critz.

Critz's predecessor, the late Rep. John Murtha, Pennsylvania's longest-serving congressman, said House races are local affairs, and he would chastise people who told him to campaign on national issues. But more than half the district's voters live on Altmire's old turf, where Critz isn't as well-known as Obama.

Rothfus has tried to tie Critz to the president, while Critz has attacked Rothfus for supporting a plan that would eventually turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Joseph Sutej, 67, of New Brighton said he's voting for Critz mostly because he thinks Republicans are irrational.

“They're worried about whether someone's going to take away their deer rifle ­while the country's going to hell in a hand basket,” Sutej said.

The back-and-forth attacks by the candidates and their national party organizations have taken a toll on Merigliano, who worries that no matter whom she picks, she'll end up with another Washington partisan.

“It's sort of a toss-up,” Merigliano said. “Honestly, from what I've seen, I don't really believe anything either one of them says.”

Mike Wereschagin is a staff writerfor Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or

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