Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs appear poised to capitalize on a strong year for their party when it comes to Congress.
Nationally, the GOP is widely expected to expand its majority in the U.S. House as it also pushes to win control of the Senate.
Local House campaigns have mirrored the trend as voters have soured on President Obama and as GOP confidence has risen in competitive districts just outside Philadelphia. National Democrats, meanwhile, have canceled ad buys there as they have focused on protecting incumbents elsewhere.
"Democrats are abandoning their candidates, leaving them wounded and bleeding out," said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R., Ore.).
The only local district where national Democrats have spent heavily is in South Jersey, where the retirement of U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R., N.J.) opened a competitive seat.
In "off" years like this, voters tend to be less informed on issues and vote more out of party loyalty, said Ben Berger, a Swarthmore College political scientist.
That's where local organizations come into play - and Republicans are generally more organized than Democrats in Philadelphia's suburbs, he said.
Democrats are looking to the next presidential race to lift their chances. "If I were a Republican in the three suburban districts in Philadelphia, I wouldn't feel too comfortable" in 2016, said U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D., N.Y.), who heads the party's House campaign efforts.
Democrats took aim at those districts this year, too, focusing on the Bucks County-based Eighth and Chester County-based Sixth.
In both, they are running war veterans who have pointed to their military experience as new conflict erupts in the Middle East.
They have joined Democratic candidates around the region in pledging to fight for infrastructure investments, college affordability, and a minimum-wage hike as antidotes to economic inequality.
Above all, the candidates in the two moderate districts have vowed to offer pragmatism in Washington.
"The difference between us and our Congress is that we always got the job done," said Kevin Strouse, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.) in Bucks County. "We hit our deadlines."
The Republicans in the Eighth and the Sixth, both with deep local ties and experience in county government, have focused on jump-starting the economy by rewriting the tax code and easing regulations, including those in the Affordable Care Act and in banking laws that they argued stifle small community banks.
In both races, the GOP has questioned the Democrats' links to their districts.
"I was not recruited by a national party to come to Bucks County," Fitzpatrick, 51, said during a radio debate this month. "This is where I've lived my whole life."
Fitzpatrick, who believes in term limits, has said this would be his last run for Congress.
He has criticized Strouse for failing to provide specifics on his policy views and has presented himself as a moderate.
Strouse, 35, moved to Bucks County last year, after growing up in Delaware County, serving as an Army Ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan, and working as an analyst at the CIA. He has accused Fitzpatrick of breaking his pledge to be open and accessible to constituents.
In the Chester County-based race, physician Manan Trivedi is making a third run after twice losing to Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), who is retiring.
Trivedi, 40, has cited his medical and military background - he served in Iraq - as Ebola, Mideast strife, and health-care costs rise in importance.
"It's important to have someone who understands health care, who understands science," Trivedi said. In the Middle East, "my boots were on the ground . . . so I know what it takes to get things done."
Costello, a lawyer and Chester County commissioner, said lawmakers in Washington should find incremental, pragmatic steps both parties could support.
"We're not seeing economic growth and opportunity to a level that makes people confident about the direction of the country and their ability to grow their own paycheck," said Costello, 38, of West Chester.
His campaign has pointed out that Trivedi lives outside the district. (He's still allowed to run.) Trivedi said his Birdsboro home was cut out when Republicans drew new congressional maps in 2011.
And he slammed Costello over his backing from the National Rifle Association. Costello has said he would "likely" support the bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) that would expand background checks for most gun purchases but has also said he supported Pennsylvania's system, which was less comprehensive.
The heavily Democratic district, which includes parts of Montgomery County and Philadelphia, will also send a new face to Washington, as Democratic State Rep. Brendan Boyle and Republican business owner Dee Adcock vie to replace Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), who ran for governor but lost in the primary.
Boyle, of Philadelphia, has focused on protecting Social Security and eliminating tax loopholes, which could help the middle class. He called income inequality a critical issue "facing not only this congressional district, but really our society at large."
Adcock, 63, of Abington, said the federal government lacked integrity, citing scandals such as Benghazi and the IRS's scrutiny of conservative groups. He wants to cut the national debt and reduce spending to "start to restore the American dream for our children."
U.S. Rep. Pat Meehan of Drexel Hill faces a challenge from political science professor Mary Ellen Balchunis in a Delaware County district that tilts Republican.
Meehan, 59, a Republican seeking his third term, has promoted his support for local jobs tied to energy and the region's refineries and said he had pushed for infrastructure projects to boost the area's economy.
He said he had "produced on the issues that are critical to the continued economic vitality of our region." He also touted votes for several bipartisan compromises, including the deal that ended last year's government shutdown, and his push for cybersecurity reforms.
Balchunis, 60, of Ardmore, would likely be the only woman in Pennsylvania's delegation if she won. "If you have women in the legislature," she said, "you have more legislation that helps women, children, and families."
She called for universal background checks on gun sales and an assault-weapons ban and for bills to ensure equal pay for women. Balchunis also argued that Meehan had not been moderate on the most important votes.
In Philadelphia, Republican Megan Rath, a sales consultant who helps sell hip and knee replacements, has an uphill race against Democrat Bob Brady, seeking his 10th term.
She supports abortion rights and said she would help job-seekers by fighting for vocational training and apprenticeship programs.
As for her political inexperience, she pointed to Congress' dysfunction. "Look what experience gets you," said Rath, 34, of the city's Fairmount section.
Brady, 69, supports more aid for the unemployed, and immigration reform. "People know who I am," he said. "They know what I do."
Republicans are running another first-time candidate, Armond James, against incumbent U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah.
To create jobs, James, 33, supports the Keystone XL Pipeline, vocational training programs, and corporate tax cuts.
"People are tired of seeing a dollar store come up, or a Wendy's but no livable-wage jobs," said the former high school teacher from Melrose Park, Montgomery County.
Fattah, 57, has faced scrutiny after a former aide pleaded guilty in a scheme to repay an illegal campaign loan using money from Fattah-backed nonprofit groups. But the 10-term Democrat was not named in the deal, faces no charges, and has said he followed the law.
He said he was running on a record of helping millions through programs for education and housing, and hoped to promote research that was seeking cures for diseases such as Alzheimer's.
"We have a track record," he said. "Given an opportunity to serve, we will produce results."