Midterm Election Ups & Downs

The Democrats big night would not have happened without the impact of women on and off the ballot. One Republican Congressman weathered the blue wave and a Democratic Congressman has even more to celebrate than a re-election victory. All of that and more are in this week’s Ups and Downs.  

Every week PoliticsPA sends an exclusive extra Up or Down to Playbook subscribers. See who gets the extra up or down next week: sign up here.

Democrats. Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey cruised to double-digit re-elections in a state President Trump and Sen. Toomey won two years ago. Dems flipped 3 congressional seats thanks to the environment plus the new map. They join Rep. Lamb, who won one Trump seat under the old map and another Trump seat under the new one. The party netted 11 seats in the House and 5 in the Senate (with an outside chance of adding more). Was 2018 a blue wave? Pundits may debate the national picture but the answer in Pennsylvania is an unambiguous YES.

Women. Tuesday was a big day for women on and off the ballot. Four women were elected to the United States Congress in Pennsylvania, breaking the current all male delegation. Madeleine Dean, Mary Gay Scanlon and Chrissy Houlahan all delivered comfortable victories in the Philadelphia suburbs, while Susan Wild successfully took down Marty Nothstein to represent the newly drawn 7th Congressional District in the Lehigh Valley. Their impact was also felt in the support they provided to the statewide candidates. NBC News Exit Polls show women helped propel the re-election bids of Sen. Bob Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf. While men were nearly split between Casey/Barletta and Wolf/Wagner, women voted for both Casey and Wolf by close to 30 points over their GOP challengers.

SEPA GOP. If the blue wave hit anywhere the hardest, it was Southeastern Pennsylvania. The state House and Senate Democrats were able to flip multiple seats in the Philadelphia suburbs that helped slightly close the gap of the GOP majority in both chambers. In a story in the Delco Daily Times, Delaware County Democratic Chairwoman Colleen Guiney is quoted wondering why local Republicans didn’t attempt to distance themselves from the President’s “negative behavior and negative comments.” After 2016: 25 GOP State Reps & Senators represented parts of Chester, Delaware & Montgomery counties. After last night: 10.

Brian Fitzpatrick. One Republican in the Philadelphia suburbs weathered the storm. The freshman Congressman from Bucks County earned a second term after defeating Democratic candidate Scott Wallace. Bucks County overwhelmingly voted for Casey and Wolf for the statewide seats, but voters stayed with their Republican incumbent this year. Wallace often attempted to tie Fitzpatrick to President Donald Trump and voting for his agenda over 80% of the time, while Fitzpatrick touted his reputation as an “Independent” voice in Congress who did rack up the endorsements from various labor unions and gun control groups who rarely cross the aisle to support a Republican candidate.


Senate Democrats. Their performance the past two cycles was a bad joke. After coming within striking distance of a majority in 2012, they allowed Republicans to amass a veto-proof majority over the next two cycles. This week, they snapped back and flipped 5 seats (of the 18 GOP seats on the ballot this year). Notably, they scored the only Dem pickup anywhere in western PA (so long as Rep. Cook holds on to his 26 vote lead in HD49). For years, Republicans have relied on the midterm dropoff to protect their even-numbered-district incumbents in SEPA. The dam has broken.

Trump Candidates. The bond between Trump and the statewide GOP candidates was very strong throughout the campaign, but it didn’t pay off on Election day. Barletta and Wagner closely aligned themselves with Trump from the beginning, even running ads showing the President’s support of their campaigns and echoing his messaging on issues like immigration. Both lost by double digits. Mike Kelly was the exception to the trend. Trump’s last PA campaign visit was in Erie, boosting the Congressman in a district the President won by over 20 points. Kelly was re-elected to Congress, narrowly beating Democrat Ron DiNicola.  

Polling. For all of the headlines polls garnered in 2016, they were rather accurate in Pennsylvania this time around. The Real Clear Politics average lead for Gov. Wolf on the Friday before the election was 17.7 points. Wolf defeated Wagner by just under 17 points. The RCP average for Casey on the Friday before the Election was 15.5 points. Casey bested Barletta by close to 13 points.  

Lloyd Smucker. The GOP Congressman was once thought to have a fight on his hands with Democrat Jess King. The GOP friendly 11th district overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2016, but FiveThirtyEight in mid-August had the race only as “Leans Republican.” Smucker comfortably won re-election by close to a 20 point margin.

Harrisburg Conservatives. Without so many pesky RINOs in caucus meetings, right-leaning Republicans mostly from Western PA will have more sway. Their majorities are smaller, meaning fewer members have room to defect from key votes. Anyone expecting a kumbaya moment between the legislature and Gov. Wolf is in for disappointment.

Wagner vs Mango Civility. The two men traded jabs in the GOP primary months ago, but their feud resurfaced once again late last week. Unaired television attack ads from the Mango campaign were leaked to the Philadelphia Inquirer just days before Wagner’s chance to unseat Gov. Wolf. Wagner Campaign Manager Jason High wrote a lengthy Facebook post slamming Mango and his supporters for “lying viciously” and working against their general election campaign.

Conor Lamb. What a week for the Western Pennsylvania Democrat. Lamb coasted to a victory over Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Allegheny) by double digits in the moderate district. Lamb gets to serve his first full term in Congress starting in January, but first it’s time to celebrate this weekend. According to WHYY’s Jim Saska, Lamb heads to his bachelor party this weekend as well.  


There were a slew of tweets that could have fit the Tweet of the Week, but we award this week’s selection to David Gambacorta of the Philadelphia Inquirer weighing in on the Governor’s race outcome.

5 Responses

  1. You lump all the SEPA counties together were as Bucks County actually did very well. They won their Congressman, they won three of their 4 senators and they started Election day with 6 House members and they ended the day with 6 House members. Don’t see how that is a great loss at all.

  2. A shout out is due to the many Democratic state house and senate candidates in central PA who work at least as hard as those in blue territory. In the long run our efforts will pay off in more Democratic victories WHICH we NEED to be a real force in Harrisburg.

  3. The message that the GOP received was to run more Trumpers. Please do that! I want to see how badly they will lose in Delco and Chesco in 20.

  4. It doesn’t do any good for Wagner operatives to blame Mango because the loss was of epic proportions at 17 points. It is very very very hard to win Pa Governor by 17 points and even suggesting Mango was a factor is absurd. When you lose by 17 points it is way way beyond Paul Mango and more in line with Scott Wagner was a really bad candidate.

  • Who Will Be Speaker of the PA House on February 28?

    • Joanna McClinton (68%)
    • Mark Rozzi (27%)
    • A Republican TBD (5%)

    Total Voters: 315

    Loading ... Loading ...
Continue to Browser


To install tap and choose
Add to Home Screen