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Politically Uncorrected: A Ringside Seat

If you like white knuckle, top of the ticket, competitive elections, Pennsylvania is your kind of state.

For decades Pennsylvania has been a battleground in presidential contests. A large state with a huge prize of winner take all electoral votes, the state in modern times has balanced its party allegiances between Republican and Democratic parties. Back to 1948, the GOP has won eight of these contests; the Democrats have won 10.

Gubernatorial elections display the same competitiveness. In fact, until the last gubernatorial election Republicans and Democrats had regularly traded the governor’s office every eight years back to the fifties.

However, this edge of the seat style of electoral contest has not extended to congressional elections. Since the 1950’s Republicans have dominated U.S. Senate races in the state, winning 19 of 24. While U.S. House races have been somewhat more competitive, the GOP has also overwhelmingly dominated them since 2010.

But, Republican domination in congressional races may be about to change. In fact, virtually every independent national political analyst believes Pennsylvania to now be the epicenter of political forces about to unleash a blue wave of Democratic victories across the nation.

This belief in a political tsunami is so widespread that one respected Pennsylvania Republican incumbent has been quoted recommending (Republicans) “get off the beach.”

Understanding why so many believe so much havoc is about to be let loose on Republicans is important – not because it is certain to happen- but because it captures the political zeitgeist sweeping the nation early in a midterm election year.

First the obligatory disclaimer: the party in the White House (almost) always loses congressional seats in a midterm election – 32 seats on average, since the Civil War.

But normal midterm anxieties don’t explain the pervasive angst worrying Republicans – nor is it inspiring that a record 58 Democrats have filed for the Pennsylvania May primaries.

Instead, two main factors, almost completely unanticipated, two months ago have converged to put the GOP into panic mode. The first of these was the imposition of a new congressional map by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court; the second was the shocking victory by a Democrat running in a special election in deep-red western Pennsylvania.

Either of these events would have unsettled Republicans. They can lose only 23 House seats without losing control of Congress. Both factors combined have left the GOP stunned.

The new Pennsylvania congressional map establishes districts in which Democrats may be able to flip six or more seats from Republican to Democratic in the next Congress. Already five incumbent Republicans are retiring at the end of the current session while additional GOP held seats are vulnerable in central and western Pennsylvania.

But the new maps are not the sole challenge for beleaguered Republicans. Democrat Connor Lamb’s unexpected special election victory in western Pennsylvania is equally ominous. Republican strategists expected midterm challenges from college-educated voters in the Philadelphia suburbs. But Lamb’s win pointed to larger problems with Trump’s, heretofore, loyal base.

Lamb’s strategy to victory provides a model and a path in deep red Trump districts where Democratic candidates are already adopting Lamb’s strategy.

Aggravating both the new maps and the Lamb shock are the polls showing both the Republican Party and the President losing support among voters.

The most recent Franklin & Marshal College Poll’s “generic ballot”’ reports that 53 percent of Pennsylvania voters “very interested” in the election plan to vote for a Democrat while only 30 percent of those “very interested” in the election will vote Republican – a yawning gap of 23 points favoring Democrats.

At the same time President Trump’s approval rating is only 30 percent suggesting that he may be dragging down the ticket.

The new congressional map, a troubled presidency, loss of “safe seats” and hemorrhaging voter support: these all seem to be creating the perfect storm for a party that just 15 months ago seemed to have a virtual monopoly on national power.

But will all or any of these dire forebodings actually transpire? Some very smart people think so, indeed, think it could get worse.

But we are still some seven months from Election Day – and that is an age in modern politics. Republicans clearly recognize the challenge confronting them while Democrats have shown an impressive gift for wrestling defeat from the jaws of victory.

Meanwhile, the GOP has some big problems, Democrats have some great opportunities and we have some great races to watch. The 2018 midterms are going through Pennsylvania – and keystoners have a ringside seat.

12 Responses

  1. Hillary Clinton represented the Marcel Groen’s of the Dem party. The Progressives and Independents turned away from her much like they did McGinty. All the other statewide Dem candidates went on to victory in 2016. Hopefully there can be dramatic change within the state party and they can weed out the old dead fish that comprises our states delegation to the DNC because they are the ones that made it possible for Trump to win.

  2. How is anybody surprised that we get fair election districts and GOP is in trouble everywhere? GOP has been cheating for decades. Now they whine about losing in a game no longer rigged for them.

  3. We weep for the blood of a bird, but not for the blood of a fish. Blessed are those with a voice.

  4. “Trump’s, heretofore, loyal base.”? Make no mistake, Lambs upset aside: TheRump’s 35% of America love him as much today, and will show up faithfully to vote for any candidate who supports his agenda to weaken government and increase our alarming and immoral concentration of wealth and power, which in America are one and the same. The Dems can win. But we hopefully have learned via 2016 that we need the equally dependable left wing. Shove a corporate GOP-Lite candidate at us, and Dems may once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. I am excited at the refreshingly left lean of our primary field, though. Pass the popcorn.

    1. Actually, I think Trump’s supporters like HIM but are luke-warm on the others, as though they are Trump-lite, and don’t seem to have the same enthusiasm.

      The left wing was not dependable in 2016. Too many Bernie people making ridiculous claims that Hillary was no different than Trump.

  5. The Poor Republicans, not fair, they just can’t win for losing. Shame nobody has the REAL COURAGE to say ….Hey we can win if we take some real action…..NOOOOO we have special interests to watch out for and protect. Hmmmm guess we lose rather than make PA a real action state.
    Why not try for the following:
    1) Real property tax reform – The days of the horse and buggy funding for school districts is over. Time for real reform that will generate positive interest for the party. Oh wait this is blocked by VERY special interests that contribute a LOT of MONEY. Nope guess we won’t do that even if it has voter support ACROSS the state.
    2) Gas Extraction tax – Wow this would put the state on better, if not great financial footing. No! We need to protect the driller’s money pot instead of the voters. Shame if this money was applied to EDUCATION across the state it would make a big difference.
    3) Pension reform – Fix the teacher and state employee pension funds. The deal is too good to be true and taxpayers are sick of hearing about the poor teachers. Hey the special interests dump a lot of money to make sure the taxpayers continue paying for unreasonable pensions. Mr. Republican you need to protect this special interest over the taxpayer, it is just right with all the money they dump at you!
    4) Special little funds – Who in their right mind is going to dump 158ML at a horse racing when nobody goes to the track any longer. Stop supporting the little things that have big lobby efforts that pull money away from the general fund. Gleam the state budget for funds like horses and eliminate them……but what happens to all the lobbyists, they will be unemployed. NOPE can’t change that!
    5) PHILADELPHIA HIGHWAYS – Fix the funding for district 6 so they can repair local highways. The folks in Philly and Montgo will be star struck! Wow a political party that does something. Fix the funding and do REAL repairs on local roads in D6, make a big deal about “rebuilding” local state roads, even Philadelphia voters will be shocked and think better of the Republican party. Nope, better to punish these areas than do anything other than running tar dumps over failed roads!
    Oh well we are losing …wo is me….Those darn people who vote…they just do not understand our need to protect our needs over theirs.

    1. All good points, what the h-ll is the hold-up with school property tax reform?? The Rs had an opportunity ca. 20 years ago and again very recently. Maybe even right now with majorities in both caucuses. Some of these pols keep promising to stay elected, including my Rep. and Senator.

  6. Good observations. Frankly, a more obvious peril for Republicans that the egghead professors ignore because it’s too practical are the weakness at the top of the ticket. A weak candidate for Gov and for Senate will spell doom for those Republican Congressional candidates that are struggling. For sure, no one is too excited about Mango & Wagner ie “Abbot & Costello” nor is Lou Barletta setting the world on fire in the Senate race. If Lou tanks and “Abbot and Costello” tank (Mango and Wagner), it is really bad for R’s in tight Congressional races.

      1. Libs always have the upper hand with Madonna. Not scientific polling at all. Remember how Hilary was supposed to plummet Trump according to Madonna and his cronies? Papa don’t preach.

  • Does the NYC Verdict Make You More or Less Likely to Vote For Trump in 2024?

    • Less Likely (36%)
    • More Likely (34%)
    • Makes No Difference (30%)

    Total Voters: 112

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