Murtha Overcomes 'Racist' Gaffe to Win Re-Election in Pennsylvania

The long-serving Democrat had said many in western Pennsylvania would not vote for a black man.

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Pennsylvania Democrats can sigh with relief tonight, and not just because their state went to Barack Obama: Congressman John Murtha has been able to overcome a bout of foot-in-mouth disease and win over Republican William Russell.

Whether Murtha would win his 18th term representing his southwestern, staunchly Democratic district hadn't even been a question in this election. Until, that is, the 76-year-old powerhouse and close ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called his area "racist." He quickly apologized for the gaffe, which was made while explaining why he thought Obama might have a tough time winning western Pennsylvania. But he made a similar one a week later, calling the area "redneck."

In response, the National Republican Congressional Committee bought more than $400,000 in television ads showing Murtha making the statements. Even NBC's Saturday Night Live caught on to the gaffe, parodying it in one of its skits.

But even those statements couldn't catapult voters into the camp of 46-year-old Russell, who supports constitutional amendments protecting fetuses as people and defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

That's one more good sign for Democrats in what's shaping up to be a champagne-filled night.

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