Five eastern Pennsylvania members of Congress who broke from Republican Party leadership in hopes of ending the federal government shutdown are representing districts that were just changed to help them get re-elected.
However, even with more Republican voters in their districts now, it would seem that the five would rather risk a Republican primary challenge for actions that are more likely to benefit them against a Democratic Party challenger next year.
"If you look at their old districts, these would be no-brainer positions in the sense that they were more competitive districts'' in a general election, said Christopher Borick, a pollster and political science professor at Muhlenberg College in Allentown. "Now that their districts have become more Republican, they do run the risk of taking a public stance of compromise.''
The five _ U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent, Lou Barletta, Jim Gerlach, Mike Fitzpatrick and Patrick Meehan _ represent districts whose boundaries were redrawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011 to capture more registered Republican voters and offset the trend of eastern Pennsylvania growing more liberal.
Thanks to a map of congressional districts drawn by state Republican lawmakers, Pennsylvania now has more Republicans in the U.S. House than any other state, except Texas, California and Florida _ a remarkable achievement considering that the state's registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 4-to-3 margin and President Barack Obama has won Pennsylvania twice.
The new map for the 2012 congressional elections _ called ``the worst gerrymander in modern Pennsylvania history'' by Franklin & Marshall College political scientist G. Terry Madonna _ shifted whole counties and some of the state's larger cities into new congressional districts in a bid to protect Republicans in Congress.
None of the five had a primary in last year's election, and each of them beat a Democratic challenger handily. However, in every one of their districts except for Barletta's, Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney fought a much closer contest in last year's presidential election.
"I don't think they have to worry about a tea party insurrection,'' Madonna said.
The federal government went into a partial shutdown Tuesday after House Republican leaders sided with the caucus' most conservative members and insisted on attaching provisions to scale back Obama's signature 2010 health care law as the price to keep the government open and fully operating.
Earlier this week, all five from Pennsylvania who broke ranks said they would support the position of the Democrat-controlled U.S. Senate, which passed bills to keep the federal government funded at current levels without strings attached. Dent went further, voting against House Republican leadership positions Monday.
When he joined the call for a no-strings-attached budget bill, Gerlach cited the results of an email survey, as well as calls, emails and letters on the issue. Last weekend's email survey found that 52 percent of his constituents supported continuing to fund government operations, including the health care law.
In the hours after the federal government shut down Tuesday night, his office recorded nearly 90 percent registering ``strong opposition'' to the shutdown, Gerlach said.
Still, Madonna said the five likely believe anyway that it's not worth shutting down the government over the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, even if they do disagree with it.
"I think that pragmatics was basically what won out,'' Madonna said. "No government shutdown, live to fight the Affordable Care Act deal another way.''