Close this search box.

Politically Uncorrected: What the GOP Really Lost in 2015

081025_gop_logoMuch attention has focused on the Democrats historic sweep of Pennsylvania’s judicial offices in November’s recent statewide election – in particular the unprecedented victories in three open Supreme Court races. It has been pointed out that the court’s new 5 to 2 Democratic majority will shape future judicial decisions for a generation or longer.

Moreover, the coming decade’s always-fierce political apportionment process, so long dominated by Republicans, will be critically influenced by Democratic control of the Supreme Court.

All of these consequences of November’s off-year contest have been fully noted and generously discussed. Much less noted and hardly discussed is the enormous change the court elections will have on the rapidly approaching 2016 presidential election cycle.

The 2015 court races almost certainly will affect elections in Pennsylvania from the presidency down the ballot to the “row offices.” Only state House and Senate races along with most congressional elections likely will be immune.

But how does a trio of state court races in 2015, imply such significance in 2016?

The short answer: the Democratic court victories are forcing a reappraisal about how “blue” Pennsylvania has become in national elections. That in turn is raising hard questions about how seriously Republicans should (or will) fight to win Pennsylvania in 2016.

From the perspective of recent presidential election history, Pennsylvania has become very blue indeed, with national Democrats winning Pennsylvania in the last six presidential elections. The Democratic tilt notwithstanding, Pennsylvania has remained a hotly contested “battleground “state in at least five of these six elections. Indeed, most of the six elections have been close. Except for Obama’s 2008 victory, no Democrat has won the Keystone State race with more than 52 percent of the vote.

In the parlance of contemporary politics, Pennsylvania remains a “competitive two party state,” despite the string of Democratic wins.

However, some political observers believe that now has changed. To them, Democratic sweep of the state court races in 2015 suggest close competitive statewide races in Pennsylvania may be over – and Pennsylvania may have become a “safe” state for Democrats running statewide in a presidential election year.

Party registration margins support this conclusion.  Democrats enjoy an 800,000 active voter registration edge over Republicans, although many of these voters only “come out” in presidential years.

Equally problematic for Republicans is their ebbing strength in the Philadelphia suburbs together and Lehigh Valley. These voter-rich regions have been slipping away from the Republicans for two decades. The GOP’s failure to win a presidential election in the state since George H. W. Bush’s 1988 victory owes much to the loss of those two regions of the state.

Since then, Republican victory in a presidential year has been improbable, but in Pennsylvania still possible. Both national and state politicians are now drawing the conclusion that the 2015 judicial election results have moved improbable to impossible.

If this calculus becomes the received wisdom, national GOP resources earmarked to win Pennsylvania in 2016 will dry up as will electoral attention to this perennial battleground state, In short GOP strategists won’t seriously contest Pennsylvania’s winner-take-all electoral vote, while the presidential campaign itself will largely skip the Keystone State.

If this happens, “down ticket” races will be dramatically affected with normal Republican turnout severely depressed by the lack of a presidential battle in Pennsylvania.

No race below the presidency will be more affected than the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Pat Toomey (R) and the winner of the Democratic Senate primary scheduled for April 2016. Pennsylvania’s Senate contest is one of the top rated senate races in the country and one of a handful likely to determine control of the U.S. Senate. Millions of Super Pac dollars will pour into the state, perhaps $40 million in total spending in the race, and all of it needed to help Toomey overcome expected Democratic advantages in 2016.

Especially threatening to Toomey is the increasing polarization pervading the electorate, which translates into more straight party voting among Democrats and Republicans. But with the Democrat’s 800,000 voter edge, any increase in straight ticket voting is ominous for Toomey. That will be particularly important in the counties located in the Philadelphia suburbs and the Lehigh Valley, both large reservoirs of swing voters.

The same forces threatening Toomey augur auspiciously for Democrats in the so-called row offices, Attorney General, Treasurer and Auditor General – now all held by Democrats. Normally the huge Democratic voter registration edge combined with presidential year turnout favors Democratic victory in these relatively low profile offices (Albeit the GOP monopolized the Office of Attorney General until 2012).

But in 2016 there is a twist. Democrats now have to defend two row offices that have been mired in scandal: State Treasurer and Attorney General – the latter involved in an ongoing legal soap opera that may end in the Democratic incumbent removed from office.

Despite possible problems in the row offices, a Democratic wave seems likely if Republicans do not contest the presidential race in Pennsylvania. If this happens, GOP statewide candidates up and down the ticket may encounter the most challenging electoral conditions faced in a half century.

This is what the GOP really lost in 2015.

12 Responses

  1. The legislatures of today are no better than the legislatures of the 1980s , bought sold and paid for by campaign contributions. remember that Asher was convicted — along with treasurer budd Dwyer — of mail fraud bribery and perjury by the feds–Asher promised $300K campaign contributions from state GOP funds to treasurer Dwyer if gov. Thornburg awarded a lucrative tax collection contract to Asher’s favored company CTA. thornburg didn’t. so asher and the GOP got legislation passed to take away the governor’s power of awarding such contracts, and give it to Treasurer Dwyer. Dwyer awards to CTA , state GOP pays back with a 300K campaign contribution. we need to just follow the money in present day campaign contributions– who’s getting what, and why ? thank god we still have functioning US Attorney’s offices — since the Pa AG’s is in total despair and disrepair…

  2. So true, Tim.

    I almost can’t wait to hear them cry when the shoe is on the other foot.

    “WAH … Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhh … … … WAH !!!!!!!!!!!!,” says the Repervlican moron.

  3. I’m 55. I once voted Republican when I was younger and there were sane Rs who did things like pass the Clean Air Act and establish the EPA. Then Ronnie Raygun came to office and it’s been downhill every since. I have occasionally voted R, but the moderates are gone from that party. I don’t like the tax & spend Ds, but at least they stay out of my body with legislation (vaginal ultrasounds after rape – really?), they support medical marijuana, they aren’t quite as racist and xenophobic, but they’re also far from perfect. A good GOP helps maintain a good Dem party. What we have today is just nonsense.

  4. You have to look no further, GOP. Look in the mirror. You have allowed your state party organization to be run by the convicted felon, Bob Asher of Montgomery County. He of conspirator Budd Dwyer blowing his head off fame. Convicted of Perjury, Racketeering, Bribery, Conspiracy all as part of a statewide political corruption investigation. Asher went to federal prison. When he got out, and the Montgomery County GOP naturally wanted nothing to do with him, he ruined his own county government and GOP dominance there by financing and defeating incumbents, and took that model to the state where he ruined the Republican Party at that level. The Asher Model: elect sycophants to office who will line the pockets of donors with their governmental actions. In turn, donors continue to contribute through Asher to control these elected officials. Honest GOP candidates never have a chance. Eventually the sycophants wind up in jail, losing, or having to resign. One by one the Democrats win those seats while the GOP struggles internally between those who are honest and those who remain with Asher. The result? Any GOP elected official from a county with significant population has, or shortly will, fall. Every statewide GOP candidate has fallen (Toomey is the last one and he’s in trouble). Why? County boundaries and the state boundary cannot be gerrymandered. Asher is the cancer that has rotted the GOP. And the party will never recover as a result. Bucks will fall next, then Delco, then, finally, Chester. Montgomery, where Asher first went to work destroying is history already. Those who could have stopped Asher: big business, powerful politicians who could raise their own money…took a pass. Short term political gain from his influence – grab what I can now – won out over long term interest in party dominance. Its happening still: court Asher to be nominated. Then lose in the fall.

  5. The Dems need to take the battle out of the East, and challenge the G.O.P. in every county and district, at every level. The G.O.P. controls the legislature purely through gerrymandering. The Dems need to be ready with candidates and organization across the state when the districts are redrawn.

  6. The Republicans are a doomed party here in the state, especially after this budget fiasco which they engineered. When school districts have to borrow money to operate and pay origination fees and interest because the legislature won’t release funds to them, they know it was the Republicans who were behind that one.

    Demographically speaking, the party of old, white, protestants will go the way of the dinosaur and become extinct. Oh sure, their will be pockets in the rural strongholds but the major population centers will all be blue and there is nothing that these scared old white men can do about the changing demographic.

    So, maybe when it comes to redistricting the congressional map down the road, the Republicans will not do so well. They rubbed their hands with glee when they got to sticl it to the Demos last time around, but wait and see how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot! They will cry foul! Too bad it will be a Democrat Supreme Court who will have to hear their appeals Ha, Ha, Ha,Ha, Ha!!!!!

  7. The polarization is damaging to our society, and results in unaccountable politicians who automatically get votes from party loyalists. How can it be better if we put our party ahead of our nation or state?

    Unfortunately, I feel that the modern GOP’s lurch to ideology and insanity leaves me no choice. They vote to bankrupt the nation (refusing to raise the debt limit), destroying the US and world economies; to shut down government completely; they deny crises such as climate change, support torture, war as a primary option, and open discrimination against any group not predominately white-skinned (Latinos, Muslims, now Syrian refugees etc.). And these views are now so common that they hardly warrant a headline.

    It wasn’t always like that, but there’s just no way I’m voting for them now.

  8. You only really have to look at one county: Montgomery. As Montco goes, so goes the state – you could look it up, as Yogi would say. And Montco in 2015 was a complete rout. Even popular row office incumbents like Russell Bono and Nancy Becker couldn’t get close. Super PACs seeking electoral votes won’t waste a dime here. It will be interesting to see if Toomey can get even his owners at Club For Growth to step up! AG’s office is GOPs only shot at a win, statewide – and even that is only true if they field a credible candidate, who has not surfaced yet.

  • 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

    Loading ... Loading ...
Continue to Browser


To install tap and choose
Add to Home Screen