Pennsylvania is in deep midterm trouble, but the GOP is committed to insisting everything is fine.
Either leaders of the Pennsylvania Republican Party are in deep denial about the looming perils of the midterm election cycle, or they’re sleepwalking through history.
Facing a slate of suddenly competitive House race punctuated by retirements, statewide redistricting that’s expected to help Democrats in November, and a deeply unpopular Trump in the state, Republican leaders there insist everything’s fine.
“In interviews with state GOP chair Val DiGiorgio, Senate candidate Lou Barletta and gubernatorial hopeful Scott Wagner this week, the trio of Republican stalwarts espoused similar rhetoric about their party’s bright future in the midterm elections, assuring that the popularity of their president and success of the economy will stave off Democratic gains” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
In truth, Pennsylvania, along with New York, New Jersey, and California, represents ground zero for the GOP’s mounting midterm woes. The non-partisan Cook Political Report currently lists six Pennsylvania House races as competitive, making it the state boasting the second-highest number of competitive contests in the entire country. (Only California has more.)
Incredibly, two of those Pennsylvania races where Republicans are retiring have already been tagged as “likely Democratic” pick-ups.
In an extraordinary move, one of the retiring Pennsylvania Republicans, Charlie Dent, last week announced he won’t even finish out his term through November — he’s quitting next month.
Yet Republican leaders see nothing but roses on the horizon. In fact, Pennsylvania’s Barletta actually claims that Conor Lamb’s special election victory in Pennsylvania’s 18th District didn’t actually constitute a meaningful victory for Democrats.
“I don’t see how the Democrats could claim victory for someone who ran as a Republican, even though he was a Democrat, in a district that had 60,000 more [registered] Democrats than Republicans,” he said. “How is that a victory?”
First, there’s no way Lamb campaigned in the race as a “Republican.”
Second, not only did Trump win the districts by 20 points in 2016, but Democrats didn’t even bother fielding a Congressional candidate there in 2016—that’s how overwhelmingly Republican the district has voted over the last decade.
As for the GOP spin that the party’s tax bill will save the party in November, we already know that the GOP tax give-away to billionaires and corporations remains deeply unpopular, and that it’s not playing well in Pennsylvania.
During the Conor Lamb special election, outside Republican groups yanked their TV ads touting the bill because they found the message in the working class district simply was not connecting.
Meanwhile, Republicans are scrambling to deal with the state’s redistricting. Earlier this year the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the party’s rigged congressional map was illegal.
The panicked Republican Party quickly responded by threatening to impeach Supreme Court justices who ruled to outlaw GOP gerrymandering.
Does that sound like a party that’s confident about its chances in November?