GOP celebrating resurgence of party in down-ballot races

GOP celebrating resurgence of party in down-ballot
races 1

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Pixabay)

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by
Real Clear

By Charles McElwee
Real Clear Politics

In Pennsylvania, many Republicans are skipping the political
autopsy of Donald Trump’s narrow presidential loss to Joe Biden
in court by the president’s team – and
celebrating the party’s resurgence in down-ballot races.

Before Election Day, the state GOP’s electoral prospects
seemed unclear, but then Pennsylvanians – again showing their
mercurial voting patterns – delivered for Republican incumbents
and candidates, particularly those with centrist views. “It was
sort of the anti-wave election in Pennsylvania,” said Christopher
Borick, director of Muhlenberg College’s Institute of Public
Opinion. This outcome benefitted Republicans but also spared
numerous Democrats. It suggests that Republicans and Democrats
confront a nuanced post-Trump map in the Keystone State.

Philadelphia’s suburbs fueled the winning margins for Biden,
who, long ago, crafted the image of loyal Democrat but approachable
centrist. This persona was viewed as a calming one for suburban
voters, who punished Republicans with
historic losses
during the Trump era. Their endorsement of
Biden, though, didn’t lead to down-ballot Democratic success –
as evidenced by Democrats’ performance in state legislative and
row-office races.

As it stands, Republicans will retain their�majority in the
state Senate, which the party has controlled since 1994. The GOP
will also maintain its state House majority, secured in 2010. In
addition, for the
first time
in over two decades, a Republican won the state
auditor general race. And the upset loss of the state treasurer
marked the first time since 1994 that a GOP candidate defeated an

incumbent Democratic statewide elected official

The suburbs, it turns out, played an important role in
Republicans’ fortunes – a development that defies recent
trends. In suburban Philadelphia, for example, Republicans retained
state House seats and even
gained one
in Bucks County. In the Democratic-leaning
Harrisburg area, an incumbent GOP state senator – considered an
underdog –
a second term. And in suburban Pittsburgh, Republicans

the state House seat held by former GOP House Speaker
Mike Turzai, who retired this year. The party even
managed to oust
Allegheny County’s Frank Dermody, the
Democratic House minority leader who had represented his district
since 1991.

In many instances, down-ballot Republicans succeeded by
reflecting their district’s values and political temperament.
Todd Stephens, for instance, cited the importance of constituent
service in his state House victory in Montgomery County, which
Trump lost by 26 points. “The voters are looking at each race
told a PBS affiliate
. “So just because they reject Donald
Trump’s policies at the top of the ticket, doesn’t mean that
they don’t embrace the things that I’ve been doing down at the
bottom of the ballot.â€

Meantime, in pro-Trump Schuylkill County, Tim Twardzik ran on
hometown values. “This is the place that gave us our values,â€
earlier this year. “Around us are the churches where we
took our first steps of faith. It’s where we learned that life
wasn’t just about us. It was about service, about giving our
lives to something bigger than ourselves.†This month, Twardzik
became the first Republican to win his legislative district since
it was
created in 1969

This winning formula – combined with political demography –
also applied to members of both parties in Pennsylvania’s
congressional delegation, which didn’t have any flipped races. In
the 1st District – centered around Bucks, a
suburban bellwether in presidential politics
– Republican
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick easily won a third term by remaining an
independent-minded moderate. In south central Pennsylvania’s 10th
District, GOP Rep. Scott Perry – viewed as a potential casualty
of the region’s suburban voters – benefitted from conservative
places like York County, which dramatically favored Trump. And in
northeastern Pennsylvania’s 8th District, Democratic Rep. Matt
Cartwright – a Medicare
For All supporter
fought charges
that he’d defund police – prevailed with the
backing of stalwart Democrats in Scranton, Biden’s hometown.

If anything, post-Trump, Republicans and Democrats must navigate
hostile terrain within their own parties. “Pennsylvanians
aren’t necessarily buying the brand of either party,†said
Borick. “The landscape that was created by Trump wasn’t
guaranteed for Republicans in the places where they made gains and
it’s not guaranteed for Democrats where they performed well,â€
he added. In the Democrats’ case, the party faces suburban voters
who may not punish Republicans in the future. After all, leftist
policies offend the moderate sensibilities of many suburbanites,
including in Chester County, which trended Republican before

Rep. Conor Lamb, who won another term in suburban Pittsburgh’s
17th District, has noted that progressive politics will lead to
backlash in Trump-friendly places where traditional Democrats still
abound. “I’m giving you an honest account of what I’m hearing
from my own constituents, which is that they are extremely
frustrated by the message of defunding the police and banning
fracking,†Lamb recently
the New York Times. “I, as a Democrat, am just as
frustrated. Because those things aren’t just unpopular, they’re
completely unrealistic, and they aren’t going to happen.â€

But future challenges aren’t limited to Democrats. In the case
of Republicans, the party must listen to its growing working-class
base, particularly in historically Democratic counties. In 2016 and
2020, many voters in places like Luzerne County cast their ballots
for Trump, not the GOP. In the past, the party’s economic
policies often conflicted with the interests of Luzerne voters, who
also rejected Democrats’ leftward turn on cultural issues. Trump,
in their eyes, was a liberating break from both parties’
orthodoxies – and a rejection of the Bush and Obama eras. Now,
these voters are despondent and question the 2020 election’s
result. The media’s often-derisive portrayal of them only
intensifies their resentment. In future elections, Republicans
could face a scenario where disillusioned blue-collar voters just
stay home.

For now, though, Pennsylvania’s electoral future favors the
Republican Party, which has enjoyed surging
voter registration numbers
. The party’s hold of the state
legislature, moreover, will be crucial in the upcoming
redistricting fight. In the 2022 midterms – which traditionally
favor the opposing party of a first-term president – Pennsylvania
will have an open Senate seat and a gubernatorial race. In the
past, moderate Republicans, from Arlen Specter to John Heinz, have
held Senate seats. Voters statewide, wearied by Democratic Gov. Tom
Wolf’s progressivism and coronavirus policies, could turn to a
GOP alternative. Time will tell how both parties respond to their
evolving coalitions and adapt to Pennsylvania’s ongoing

Charles McElwee edits RealClear’s public affairs page on
Pennsylvania. He is the 2020-21 John Farley Memorial Fellow, part
of The Fund for American Studies’ Robert Novak Journalism
Program. Follow him on Twitter @CFMcElwee.

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by
Real Clear


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GOP celebrating resurgence of party in down-ballot races

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