Another election, another drubbing at the ballot box for the Pennsylvania GOP. Now what?
Republicans can look for silver linings, but it’s impossible to ignore the massive dark cloud. GOP Supreme Court candidate Carolyn Carluccio won 30,000 more votes than the last GOP candidate for the state’s top court (Kevin Brobson in 2021), but she lost — badly — while Brobson won.
The news was no better down ballot.
In Delaware County, Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski was swamped by incumbent Democrat District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, 90,030 to 58,305. Just four years ago, Stollsteimer beat Republican Kat Copeland for the job by barely 5,000 votes.
The rest of the county’s GOP candidates fared no better. None of them breached the 58,300 vote total. The Democrats? Their vote floor was 81,604.
It’s the same story in Montgomery, Chester, and Bucks Counties. Democrats came out in droves for their candidates. Republicans? Not so much.
What can Republicans in the Philly suburbs do?
“Recruit better candidates,” Christopher Nicholas of Eagle Consulting Group told DVJournal. “Run even better campaigns. Focus much more on persuasion. Worry less — much less — about how Republicans vote, and worry more about how many of them vote.”
Conservative groups argue their candidates did better than people realize.
“[T]he margins on the courts were much closer than the Democratic advantage would suggest,” said Matt Brouillette, President & CEO of Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs. “And the fact that we were as close as we were, despite being outspent nearly 2-1, demonstrates we are still the biggest swing state in the country.”
Brouillette blamed money for the losses, or at least a lack of money. “We had projected that the left would spend millions of dollars—and they did just that,” he said before mentioning that there was only a 34 percent turnout. “The latest reports show spending topped $20 million from outside of Pennsylvania.”
He may have a point. Campaign finance reports show that more than $17 million was spent on the Supreme Court race alone, much of it from activist groups like the leftwing American Civil Liberties Union.
Most of the money went toward ads defining Carluccio in a negative light, particularly on abortion. Carluccio may have said that she would follow the law on abortion, but groups said she wasn’t being honest because she wasn’t willing to reveal her personal opinion.
“This motivates their base, keeps most Democrats loyal to the team, and scares most independents and soft Republicans—even if the race is for municipal government,” Guy Cirrocchi, a senior fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation, wrote in Broad + Liberty. “Democrat strategists love putting the ‘scarlet A’ on GOP candidates.”
Nicholas wants the GOP to stop appealing only to Republicans. “Focus on non-Republicans, especially in the eastern part of the state where we’re outnumbered.”
And Ciarrocchi sees some green shoots of hope for the Grand Old Party, mostly thanks to the leftward drift of the Democrats.
“The crime issue and building trades versus environmental extremists have created new opportunities for GOP growth,” he wrote. Plus, while Republicans are still getting outspent, they haven’t given up the money race. If they can stay competitive financially, it can make a difference.
“Republicans’ new-found willingness to spend money. The GOP’s growth in voter registration,” Ciarrocchi said.
Two silver linings, but the dark clouds for Republicans still loom.