Осенью этого года у местных республиканцев может быть только российская проблема

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Translation: This fall, local Republicans may have a Russian problem

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

So, comrades, how was your week?

If you happen to be a Republican, and hold public office locally, the guess here is: not too great.

Between the missteps, lies, new infidelity claims (and tapes, lordy) and policy decisions of El Presidente For Life Donald J. Trump (seems about right for a would-be banana republic dictator), elected Republicans, many of them facing the the voters in less than 100 days have to be wondering: what the heck is next? Add to that missteps by a gubernatorial candidate, Jim Jordan’s divisive Speaker run and some concerning poll numbers and you begin to understand why this might not be a fun fall for the GOP.

And, yes, there’s always the concern of what comes next, kind of like waiting for the next Acme (™) anvil to fall from the sky in a Roadrunner cartoon — with the Republicans converting themselves into an entire party of Wile E. Coyotes (Super Genius — or “really stable genius” – your pick).

But never mind what’s next, it appears all that has transpired in the last few weeks is leaving voters with a less than thrilled impression of our fearless leader and his party — a feeling that will very likely bleed down to Congressional and state legislative candidates in this year’s election.

From the tariff war, to myriad Russia issues, to banning a CNN reporter because of her mean questions — snowflake much? — the Trump White House had a spectacularly crappy week.

As an aside: Queens native Trump claiming that “nobody has been tougher on Russia than Trump” is a bit like the New York Mets claiming “no one has been tougher on the National League than the Mets.” For you non-baseball fans, the Mets are in last place and have generated more senseless injuries than the Crimean War of the 1800s.

Let’s not forget the curious case of Maria Valeryevna Butina, who appears to have infiltrated the ranks of the National Rifle Association and other right-wing organizations, using sex and money to push a pro-Russia agenda. There are also unsubstantiated allegations that she and others may have laundered as much as $30 million in Russian money through the NRA to the 2016 Trump Campaign.

And while Trump is not on the ballot, there are Republicans up and down the ballot who may find themselves witting — or unwitting — Trump surrogates for a lot of angry voters this fall, as a recent Quinnipiac University poll out this week reveals. And GOP numbers among white, college educated voters are flat out awful — just the kind of voters who tend to show up in Chester County.

With the Congressional seat, PA-6, not likely to feature a close race — Democrat Chrissy Houlahan enjoys both a demographic advantage (the new 6th was won by Hillary Clinton by 10 points in 2016) and a large financial advantage over Republican Greg McCauley, and neither the U.S. Senate matchup between Lou Barletta and Sen. Bob Casey Jr. nor the gubernatorial race between Scott Wagner and Gov. Tom Wolf are showing numbers closer than double digits, expect Democratic energy to slide down the ballot.

It seems likely that Democratic enthusiasm will end up being focused on state legislative seats. At this writing, it appears that only two seats seem GOP “safe” — John Lawrence in the 13th and Tim Hennessey in the 26th. Without a blue tsunami, I don’t see either seat flipping.

But — and this is important — name ID for legislators and their challengers is typically fairly low, meaning that if party enjoys a wave election, many incumbents get pushed out, just because the voters in one party or the other get energized. So that means seats that would normally be safe, won’t be.

A ton of lessons were out there to learn during the 2017 Row Office races — when Democrats shocked, well, everyone by sweeping all four races after not winning one since before the Civil War. It doesn’t appear the local environment is any better— and may be worse for Republicans.

Democrats appear willing to crawl through broken glass to vote, independents are kind of angry and Republicans seem inclined to just stay home on election day at this writing in places such as Chester County.

Behind this likely turnout model is a growing sense that Russians clearly interfered with the 2016 election and may have helped Trump win (of course myriad missteps by Clinton’s campaign clearly had a major role, too). Democrats are feeling aggrieved while some Republicans are kind of sick of it all, being asked to basically ignore long-held policy positions in favor of the New Order.

Plus, there’s lots of the normal policy stuff that leads to outrage — and therefore, turnout — on the left. Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court could well mean the end of federal protection for abortion rights, putting the issue squarely into legislative races. Nationally, abortion rights are supported by something like 70% of folks (that number has consistently polled in the upper 60s in Chester County), so a real threat to law supported by roughly two thirds of voters means big wads of cash and motivated voters.

You can add environmental, education, fiscal (the exploding deficit and results of the tax bill — not to mention the tariff mess have a lot of mainstream Republicans finding it very hard to support the party right now) to issues that will drive liberal and moderate voters to the polls.

And of course, the ick factor of Trump’s alleged personal behavior — which makes that of Bill Clinton look like a Jesuit priest (wait, strike that, in light of the Roman Catholic Church’s cover up of sexual misconduct by its priests…maybe that’s not the best comparison, but you get the idea).

So, yeah, it’s a tough environment for Republicans in a place such as Chester County.

Unless we see a lot of changes in the atmospherics, voters might just be saying “dasvidaniya, comrades” to a lot of GOP elected officials this fall.

***

And — and there’s always an “and” this year, doesn’t it seem?

And, there’s also Scott Wagner.

Wagner, the Republican candidate for governor made a lot folks wish for the good old days of Lynn Swann running for governor when he told 18-year-old Rose Strauss — a Downingtown resident — that she was “young and naive” when she pressed him on the issue of climate change during a town hall meeting in Montgomery County on July 18.

Wagner made headlines for previous comments suggesting that warming is caused by excessive body heat or the Earth moving too close to the sun. Strauss pressed him on whether money Wagner has taken from the fossil fuel industry colored his position. 

Let’s set aside the issue that we’ve been going through some mighty wacky weather — excessive flooding in recent days — that many attribute to climate change, Wagner showed an impressive gift to push every single activation button for liberal and female voters to come out  and voter against him.

Wagner’s comments were captured on a now viral video and they come across as both condescending and ill-informed.

First off, let’s be clear: it really sounded like Wagner was “mansplaining” the issue to Strauss, only to wander verbally off into a word salad that showed off his lack of understanding of the subject matter.

Ask women how well that plays.

Second, he didn’t answer the question.

So setting aside the actual content and behavior, which we’ll get to in a minute, where the hell was his staff? Wagner was clearly poorly prepared and had to know he’d be getting a question like that (he had gotten similar questions at a town hall in Lancaster earlier in the month). He should have been prepped with an answer such as:

“Look, we know something is going on with the climate — the exact cause, even to scientists isn’t crystal clear. But we do need to start planning for how it will impact Pennsylvania on everything from farming to flooding. And yes, we have to consider any steps we can take to address it.

“But you have to understand, $200,000 in a $30 million campaign is never enough to make me change my core values. That donation came in part from my support for shale oil extraction — and while we know it needs to managed well to be safe and clean, it means millions, if not billions in economic development for the commonwealth and thousands of jobs. While we have to manage it well, and keep our environment clean — which I think we can do — I do support it, and yes, I do appreciate the support of industry groups backing shale oil extraction.

“But don’t assume my administration wouldn’t address global warming and its impact. At this point it is obvious that something is happening.”

Boom. Maybe not the answer that people were looking for, but an honest, thoughtful one that doesn’t go out of its way to anger folks. It’s not that hard people — and let’s be clear Wagner and other GOP candidates are paying top dollar to consultants and staff who should have been on top of this, but weren’t.

This hasn’t been an isolated incident, either. Pennsylvania GOP consultants have been going to the angry play way too often. While it can work with a certain subset of voters, it tends to drive away more than it attracts — it’s lazy, it’s sloppy and in the end, will do longterm damage to the Republican Party.

While the words and outrage may get the headlines, it’s the lack of basic competency here that should have people worried.

As for the words themselves — it was basically Christmas in July for Democrats and Gov. Tom Wolf. You’ve got a catch phrase to raise money off of, Wagner managed to define himself poorly and he’s mobilized female and environment voters in one fell swoop.

Genius.

No, wait. Super Genius.

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2 Comments

  1. Theresa zunino says:

    Why would you assume that district 13 will go for Lawrence? Have you reviewed his record, or lack thereof? Have you reviewed the positions of his opponent? I would enjoy an editorial of your impressions of Sue Walker after you speak with her.

    • Mike McGann says:

      In both 13 and 26, it comes down to voter performance and has nothing to do with the relative merits of the candidates. If the current data suggests about an eight point Democratic advantage nationally, it won’t be enough to entirely close the gap in those two districts (or 160). If, as appears more likely, based on the special election data the Dem advantage is more like 11, again, 13 and 26 fall short, even as every other seat in the county fully goes into play. For 13 and 26 to truly be competitive you’d need to see something akin to 15 points — a true blue tsunami. I base all of this on who typically votes, registration in a given district and the current atmosphere. For what it is worth, the old 13, as held by Tom Houghton, would be quite winnable in this environment.

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