Josh Shapiro is the blueprint for Democrats, not John Fetterman


Josh Shapiro is the blueprint for Democrats, not John Fetterman

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WASHINGTON, Pennsylvania — For the first time in years, one Democrat running for statewide office came close to winning this southwestern Pennsylvania county — 900 votes separated Josh Shapiro from Republican Doug Mastriano in the gubernatorial race. That’s a big deal if you are a Democrat running for statewide office here in Pennsylvania.

That narrowing of the electorate happened at the same time the other Democrat beside him, John Fetterman, lost this county by 12,000 votes to Republican Mehmet Oz. You would think the stories and lessons learned written by the media would be Shapiro is the model for Democrats.


Instead, in the week since Shapiro won one of the most sweeping statewide elections in the commonwealth’s history, the D.C.-based stories and cable news segments have all been about Fetterman. MSNBC’s Katy Tur suggested that his win qualifies him as a perfect candidate for president. The New York Times, the Guardian, and the Washington Post report that the York native is the blueprint for all Democratic candidates.

Dave Ball, the outgoing chairman of the Washington County Republican Party, shakes his head at the absurdity of it all. He says he’s no Democrat, but it is clear to anyone with eyes that the lesson for Democrats is being broadly misread by the media. “Josh Shapiro is clearly the candidate you model a statewide election after,” he said. “He had the right tone. He listened to people in places like my red county about their concerns and didn’t spend any time making fun of them. Heck, Shapiro even turned Beaver County blue — something Fetterman didn’t come close to doing.” Beaver County has been voting Republican since former President Barack Obama’s second run for president in 2012.

In our first interview after he won his primary election last May, Shapiro told me he was running to represent the people of Washington County and not the people running Washington, D.C. It was an ethos he never strayed from during his entire run for office but also an ethos he adopted in both of his runs for statewide office as attorney general. He ran and won in 2016, the same year former President Donald Trump won the state’s electoral votes, and again in 2020, when a red wave swept every down-ballot race in the state except his.

Shapiro’s win here last week made him the first candidate in Pennsylvania history to win more than 3 million votes in a midterm election. He now holds the record for winning the most votes in both a midterm and presidential election year in Pennsylvania.

This county is home to small towns such as Prosperity, Avella, Bentleyville, and Monongahela, which are the homes to manufacturing workers, coal mines, and gas wells. It is also home to upper-middle-class professionals who live in the lush Pittsburgh suburbs of Peters Township.

Philadelphia-based public affairs professional and political observer Larry Ceisler is a native of this county and a supporter of Shapiro. He has long said that if Shapiro won this state by more than 8 percentage points, he would take Fetterman with him into the winner’s circle. He wasn’t wrong.

“If you look how Josh did in Washington County, I mean, it was stunning. If you look how he did in just about every red county, he outpaced Biden, which is about 57 of them,” he said. “Biden did better than Hillary Clinton, and Josh did better than both of them, and not just by a few. In many of these counties, he did better than Biden by double digits.”

Trump also played a role in Fetterman’s win in that, in the final days of the midterm elections, he made the cycle a very vocal promotion of himself. This might have put the brakes on voters who were breaking toward Oz to decide not to vote at all. There was a significant underperformance among Republican voters, and it could be that they feared Oz would be beholden to the former president during the next two years as he campaigned for president.

It is fair to say that Ceisler and other Democrats interviewed for the story believe that if the Democratic Party or the media are looking for the Democrats’ blueprint, they are looking at the wrong guy.


“There were two things I was right about in this election,” said Ceisler. “Josh was going to bring Fetterman across and that people cared about democracy and the election deniers. And both those things, I think, happened. Josh resuscitated the word ‘coattails,’ which, as a term, ‘coattails’ has not existed in Pennsylvania for a long time. He not only brought in John Fetterman, he brought in Democratic House incumbent Susan Wild, Matt Cartwright, Chris DeLuzio, and apparently the Democratic majority in the state House. That’s all Josh. That’s the model, that is the blueprint.”

Ceisler added that Fetterman did some of that too, when he went on his marijuana listening tour. “But the fact is, I think Democrats nationally have to learn the lessons. The lessons from Pennsylvania were really taught by Josh Shapiro, whose performance was nothing short of stunning.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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