Trump’s shadow loomed over Pennsylvania’s Republican bloodbath

Election 2022 Pennsylvania Senate
Democrat John Fetterman stands with his campaign staff after winning Pennsylvania’s race for U.S. Senate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, November 9, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey) Ted Shaffrey/AP

Trump’s shadow loomed over Pennsylvania’s Republican bloodbath

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PITTSBURGH — The red wave that had been predicted to sweep through the Keystone State never materialized. Instead, Democrats captured the governor’s office, flipped a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat, kept all nine of their congressional seats, flipped several state House seats, and lost just one state Senate seat.

It was a bloodbath so bad for the GOP that it can only be now seen as a solid blue wave that countered the solid red wave Republicans had in this state just two years earlier in down-ballot elections in 2020, when Republicans swept those elections despite President Joe Biden’s top-ticket victory.

Democrat Josh Shapiro did as expected and won the governor’s office handily over Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano. Democrat John Fetterman won as well, by not as much, but the work he did before his stroke in the past few years in his previous failed run for the Senate, and in his successful run for the lieutenant governor’s office, held. All of the goodwill he had built up in rural counties gave him just enough votes to overcome Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz’s efforts to win the election.

Both men swept away all chances of Republicans gaining any new seats in the House and nearly erased their majority in the state House — one seat hangs in the balance and is too close to call. It was an utter and complete repudiation of the state’s Republican Party.

G. Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Millersville University, attributed Tuesday night’s results to three things that had been missed by analysts, pollsters, and reporters, including me.

The first, he said, was “Fetterman holding onto the relationships he developed in the rural counties long before he ran for election this time.” The second was abortion. The third was that although voters were unhappy with Biden, they were even more unhappy with Trump’s presence during the last week before the election.

Trump’s rally in Pennsylvania the Saturday before the election, and his signaled intention to announce another presidential bid later this month, may have done more damage than anyone knew.

Last May, when Trump endorsed Oz for the Republican Senate nomination over David McCormick, many of the state’s loyal conservatives balked. Dave Ball, the Washington County GOP chairman who flipped his county from blue to red in voter registration, said at the time, “What the hell was he thinking?”

When Mastriano surged comfortably ahead in the polls for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in the weeks before the May primary, I reported extensively on the Republicans’ fears that Mastriano would drag the party down, including its Senate nominee; within days of that story, Trump endorsed Mastriano.

The state party leadership and the Republican strategist class only enhanced the problem for the governor’s race by keeping nine candidates in the competition — and themselves employed and well paid.

“There is a lot of blame to go around in this state,” said one GOP Pennsylvania-based strategist who had a candidate in the governor’s race, “including myself. But you cannot ignore the biggest elephant in the room — Donald J. Trump.”

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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