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Politically Uncorrected: Five Takeaways That will Still Matter on November 6th

They call it a primary election for a reason – maybe a couple of reasons. One is its priority. It comes first, preceding the “general” election by about six months. More importantly, primaries separate the wannabes from the winners. Almost anyone can run in a primary but running in a general means you won that primary. That’s why the puny fraction that vote in most primaries have such an out-sized influence on our politics. They decide whom we get to vote for in the fall election – and whom we don’t.

Here are five takeaways from Pennsylvania’s 2018 primary:

1. Turnout was again abysmally low, ranging from the teens to 25 percent among the counties – and this with some of the most competitive and exciting races seen in years. The vast majority of eligible voters didn’t vote; so in the fall their choices are choices made by the tiny minority that did vote. Many believe there are some serious problems with American democracy. Not voting is one of them.

2. A Pennsylvania Referendum on President Trump was guaranteed by the results of the Republican primary nominating Scott Wagner and Lou Barletta for governor and U.S. Senate, respectively. Wagner, a blunt hard charging conservative, has modeled himself after Trump and his policies – while Barletta is a long time Trump supporter who made his reputation as an immigration hard liner. Elections should be referendums and this year they will be.

3.Women candidates running in congressional races were enormously successful, bringing historic change to Pennsylvania, a state often loath to elect women. Statewide eight women won nomination, seven Democrats and one Republican. In the Philadelphia suburbs, five of six women, mostly running as progressives, won their Democratic primary races. In most cases these female candidates were a reaction to the Trump presidency- increasing the likelihood that the fall election becomes a referendum on Trump. The present Pennsylvania congressional delegation has 18 men and no women. Tuesday’s results virtually guarantee that will change.

4. Lou Barletta vs. Bob Casey is fated to a premier national U.S. Senate race in 2018. As a Trump supporter, Barletta is unique. He espoused Trumpian views before Trump himself did. As mayor of Hazelton, he gained national prominence confronting the federal government over immigration policy and went on to co-chair the Trump campaign in Pennsylvania. Barletta and Trump are joined at the hip on the issues, while Barletta will face in Bob Casey one of the senate’s leading Trump critics.

5. Political history was made when the Mayor of Braddock John Fetterman handily won (38%) election among a field of five Lt. Governor candidates including the scandal-mired incumbent Mike Stack. No incumbent Lt. Governor had previously lost a bid for re-election. Fetterman is a colorful progressive Democrat, who received endorsements from Bernie Sanders and former governor Ed Rendell. He should increase turnout among Sanders’ Democratic followers in the fall. While some analysts wonder if we need the office of Lt. Governor, Governor Wolf may be happy he has this one for a running mate.

Trump will not appear on another Pennsylvania ballot before 2020 at the earliest, but Tuesday’s results ensure he will be on the minds of many voters on November 6th. The results in the Republic primary especially at the statewide level for governor and U.S. Senator will offer voters clear choices between strong supporters and equally strong opponents of the president. In addition, most observers agree this primary confirms the virtual takeover of the Pennsylvania Republican party by Trump supporters. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump now owns the Pennsylvania Republican Party – and the party owns him.

At the same time, the increasingly pervasive presence of “progressives” among winning Democratic candidates must be noted. Much ink has been spilled describing how (and why) the Republican Party has drifted so far right and towards the policies of the president. Less noticed but equally portentous is the steady drift of Democrats to left – liberal positions. The ideological divergence increasingly characterizing the two parties sets up often-stark choices for voters. Some believe this is what modern democracy now needs.

We may find out.

21 Responses

  1. What I found to be particularly were two of the three special elections where a traditionally Republican Bucks County seat flipped to the Democrats and a Washington County held by Democrats since forever was taken by the Republicans. That documents the more liberal leanings in the Philadelphia suburbs and the continuing conservative trend in western PA.

  2. Barletta and Wagner – a pair of Trump fascists – are going to be beaten like a drum in November.

    1. I certainly agree and hope that you are correct. I am glad to see that Dr. Sklaroff has gone back into his cave. Yours is the only comment that has not yet received the benefit of his Neanderthal wisdom. I looked up his CV and he appears to be a well-respected MD; why not stick to what he knows?

  3. “In the Philadelphia suburbs, five of six women, mostly running as progressives, won their Democratic primary races. In most cases these female candidates were a reaction to the Trump presidency- increasing the likelihood that the fall election becomes a referendum on Trump.”

    These candidates had NOTHING to do with The Donald, for they continue traditions started during recent decades by EMILY’s list; perpetuating the myth that Dems should control the lady-vote is problematic, particularly from an allegedly neutral commentator.

    He referenced this perspective on TV this a.m., along with a negative prediction regarding Barletta; this is also problematic, particularly when the intellectual quality of the challenger is so much greater than that of the empty-suit incumbent.

    Consider his support for the JCPOA, which he rationalized a year hence…
    htt ps://ww w.casey.senate.g ov/newsroom/releases/casey-statement-for-the-record-on-the-jcpoa-with-iran
    …and recognize how INCORRECT he was on the gravamen of the “Iran-Nuke Capitulation-Pact.”

    Then note that he traded upon his last name and presumed h/o being pro-Life…prior to voting for ObamaDon’tCare’s funding of abortions.

    His fealty to Dem-Party orthodoxy [and movement to the left-radical postures, no matter his becalmed rhetoric] will justifiably be targeted by another soft-spoken individual who is [and has been] CORRECT on the issues…and the Trump Agenda.

  4. Donald Trump must live rent free in Dr. Madonna’s head as 4 of his 5 takeaways were variations of a referendum on Trump in the midterms. While that will motivate the far left, moderates and independents still care about policies and what they mean to their families. So the deregulation and tax cuts which have led to a strengthening economy, increased jobs, more money in the paychecks, and just announced this week, lower utility costs are going to prove to be popular for the candidates who can articulate and leverage them. With the recent polls showing Dems lead in the generic congressional ballot dropping, the blue wave Dr. Madonna and others are wishing for may very well not happen.

  5. The Fetterman win really wasn’t a surprise and you could see it coming for months. Stack really wasted his opportunity as Lt. Gov. Although, history has shown that it tends to be a dead end job and it will be interesting to see what Fetterman does with the opportunity assuming Wolf wins a 2nd term.

    As for Barletta and Wagner being a referendum on Trump, let’s just say voters of PA have a chance to start their redemption after their mistake in 2016.

    1. What few understand is that the policies of Wolf/Fetterman overlap; thus, PA-voters will be empowered to ensure they sustain their wisdom of ’16 when voting for Trumpsters Barletta/Wagner/Bartos.

  6. This statement brings the entire piece into disrepute: “…Bob Casey one of the senate’s leading Trump critics.”

    No one, including his side, really wants to listen to Silent Bob, the boring fool. That might explain why he says so little, but it’s more likely that the mediocrity has nothing to say.

    1. He is strategically quiet, for he attempts to maintain support among key-constituencies despite his voting almost exclusively with the other Dems; Barletta and The Donald will expose this subterfuge, notwithstanding Casey’s $$$.

      1. Why not be quiet, instead of a bombastic blowhard? Barletta will try to maintain support among his key constituencies, so what is the difference?

  7. Fetterman’s win is remarkable.

    However, to put it in perspective…. it’s well known that Wolf hates Stack. Had Wolf endorsed Stack, there probably wouldn’t have been any challengers. It’s unclear what Wolf did behind the scenes for any particular candidate, though my sense is that the Wolfpak stance was “anyone but Stack”.

    This certainly sets up Fetterman for a Senate run in 2022 against Toomey.

    The low turnout is indicative for the Dems that Wolf and Casey were uncontested races. Had they both been tough primaries, Dem turnout would have been much higher (with millions spent by both on GOTV).

    I don’t think that Barletta will even make Casey break a sweat. Casey took out nutjob and incumbent Rick Santorum. Casey is the incumbent and there isn’t a referendum on Casey. There is a referendum on Trump, which will make Barletta suffer. The country is sick of the Trump extremism and idiocy.

    1. The Country is increasingly enamored of The Donald’s pattern of success in all three realms [domestic/foreign/social] and his base will be reminded of the need to remain energized when judicial-turnover is emphasized; Fetterman would be foolish to run for the Senate [with or without a tie] when, if he were the sitting Lieutenant Governor, he could instead run for the top-office.

    2. Fetterman’s win was not ‘remarkable’ in any sense. Although he had a higher percentage of votes at 38%, he received over 10% LESS votes than he did in the 2016 senate primary.

      So, in reality, Fetterman performed far worse than he should have, considering he was running again state-wide in a short period of time, he received all of the press of ‘the Annointed’ unlike others who were far more qualified, and he spent his daddy’s money like the well would never go dry.
      ‘Remarkable’ would have been the case had he actually received more votes than he did in’16, considering all of the tailwind he had at his back.

      No, this spells trouble for Wolf (and Casey) because even the Dems weren’t buying Fetterman’s BS.

      1. That would be great analysis, except there were nearly 1,000,000 more votes cast in 2016 than in 2018.

        1. Well that would mean that Fetterman’s 20% in ’16 was solely a function of sheer numbers, not that he did something that was deserving of his anointment by the pundits and the press.

          You can’t have it both ways…he should have either built upon the base number from 2016, or it shows a clear negative trend for Fetterman. Good Luck Tom and Bobby!

    3. “This certainly sets up Fetterman for a Senate run in 2022 against Toomey.” Last I knew Toomey had term-limited himself to two terms. Assuming he holds to the commitment, the Senate seat is open in 2022.

  8. Great insights by Professor Madonna and Professor Young. The Fetterman win really is monumental and it has many meanings in the Wolf and Wagner race–my feeling is that it is a big break for Wolf and a boost but should Wolf and Fetterman prevail it may open wide the array of candidates for Gov for Dems in 4 years that would have been blocked by a Stack win. Fetterman winning changes the Democratic dynamic across the board in a multitude of ways.

    1. Predictable “insights” by covert-Dem Madonna; omitted, for example, is the individual/dual victorious Wagner/Bartos, and the forces that led to this outcome.

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