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Historic GOP Primary Leaves Senate Outcome Uncertain

This may be a Pennsylvania primary for the history books—at least for Republicans.

For Democrats, their election results matched the polls, with Lt. Gov. John Fetterman handily winning the Senate nomination, and Attorney General Josh Shapiro unchallenged in the governor’s race.

For Republicans, it was a different story.

Trump-backed state Sen. Doug Mastriano won with a commanding lead in the crowded field of seven in the governor’s race. President Donald  Trump’s choice for the Senate nomination, Dr. Mehmet Oz, remained statistically tied with Dave McCormick, a hedge fund CEO as of Wednesday morning. Kathy Barnette, author and Fox News commentator, surged toward the end of the race but came up short.

“As for the Senate race, Barnette’s strong finish took a toll on Oz and helped create the extremely tight race that has not played out. If Oz does prevail it certainly will be the product of Trump’s intervention and give the former president a major victory,” said Christopher P. Borick, professor of political science and director, Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

Richard Booker, a former Radnor Township commissioner and school board member who remains active in Republican politics, said, “Twenty-two thousand mail-in ballots in Lancaster County will need to be counted – and those could benefit McCormick. Also, statewide about 8 percent of the ballots remain to be counted. It is obvious, that the complex and cumbersome paper ballot system in Pennsylvania is not a panacea to make election procedures transparent as promised.  The change to paper ballots has to be one of the worst changes implemented by the legislature this century.”

Dr. Mehmet Oz and his wife, Lisa, walking to vote.

Jeff Jubelirer, a political consultant, said the GOP Senate results might not be known for a few weeks if a recount is needed.

“The news cycle will focus on the race, thus potentially helping take some of the focus off of John Fetterman’s health, which is clearly an issue that will be ‘on the ballot’ come November without a clearer understanding of the lieutenant governor’s condition.”

Fetterman suffered a stroke last Friday.

“Regardless of who emerges, the general election will be competitive and the Trump factor will weigh heavily again. Unlike with Mastriano, however, expect either Dr. Oz or McCormick to maneuver at least a little more to the center to try and capture swing voters and disenchanted Democrats who would be apt to split their ticket and go with them and Shapiro.”

Jubelirer says he also believes Fetterman’s victory shows a progressives trend among Democrats.

“They chose a more progressive path by convincingly supporting Fetterman, thus setting up what looks to be a very competitive general election matchup with whoever emerges on the GOP side,” said Jubelirer. “The fact that Fetterman overwhelmingly won despite receiving sparse support from fellow Democratic officeholders shows the electorate was not persuaded that a more moderate candidate like Connor Lamb was the right direction to go. Perhaps that is a response to what I am sure many feel right now about the direction of the country and the lack of action on meaningful Democratic issues in Congress and from the Biden administration.”

Daylin Leach, a former Democratic state senator, said, “The results of this year’s U.S. Senate primary were reflective, in a somewhat less intense way, of trends we’ve been seeing around the country for several years. Specifically, our nation is becoming increasingly ideological and tribal. As we become more politically divided, we demand more purity from our candidates and become less tolerant of deviation from the chosen line.”

“I say ‘chosen line,’ because in the case of the Republicans, it’s not really the Republican ‘party line’ that matters. It’s loyalty and fealty to one single personality. If Donald Trump is opposed to…say free trade, a GOP candidate had better be opposed to free trade, regardless of what Republicans have historically been for. The same is true with acknowledging the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential elections, which most Republican candidates were extremely reluctant to do.”

Dave and Dina McCormick walking to vote in Pittsburgh.

Meanwhile, “the Democratic side is not operating on a cult of personality. But Connor Lamb still struggled to gain traction because he wasn’t considered pure enough. I had numerous people tell me they couldn’t support him because he was “way too conservative”, despite the fact that he is pro-choice, supports ending the filibuster, supports Build Back Better, etc., and had a very mainstream Democratic voting record in Congress. This sort of ideological rigidity would have made it extremely difficult for a Bob Casey to be nominated if he were running for the first time today. While I personally am actually more on the left side of the Democratic Party, I do worry that our increasing polarization will lead to more governmental dysfunction going forward. And that’s the last thing we need.”

In the Republican race for governor, former Congressman Lou Barletta came in a distant second to the Mastriano juggernaut.

“Doug Mastriano’s victory wasn’t a big surprise, but even with candidates dropping out, he still failed to garner a majority of the vote,” said GOP consultant Charlie O’Neill. “He will still need to prove to 55 percent of Republicans why they should feel comfortable with him in the fall, as well as independents and moderate Democrats. Mastriano’s victory speech addressed a concern many have raised, his ability to fundraise against Josh Shapiro’s 10-plus million dollar war chest. His proclamation that money doesn’t win elections will certainly be put to the test.”

Borick said, “Mastriano offered voters a hyper-MAGA alternative that allowed him to dominate among that key group in the Republican electorate. His full-blown culture warrior status is not a natural fit in a Pennsylvania general election, but he has a cycle that is great for the GOP and if economic issues like inflation remain troubling in the fall he could ride a wave that allows him to be quite competitive with Shapiro.”

Republican strategist Craig Snyder, who briefly threw his hat in the ring for governor, said, “America’s singular and long splendid political system — most notably its ability for improving and self-correcting overtime — was born in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania primary elections may have just seen that system break.

“In the GOP gubernatorial and Democratic Senatorial contests, clowns and crazies carried the day–a ‘Christian Nationalist’ and a ‘socialist’ in Ben Franklin’s shoes. As for the Senate race, “it is perfectly clear that nearly all the voters endorsed insurrectionist lies about the 2020 presidential election.

“It all shows how a two-party system, plus closed and winner take all primary elections, plus the damnable egos of many who seek office for the wrong reasons, plus the learned disdain for politics among the great majority of our people, all add up to giving vastly disproportionate power and representation to a relative handful of the angriest among us,” he said.

Jubelirer said Mastriano’s win “sets up a difficult predicament for the Republican Party in Pennsylvania and for Republican fundraising groups (e.g. Republican Governors Association) moving forward. Do they bite their lip and fully support Mastriano despite trying to take him down in the primary? Do they stay ‘out of it,’ so to speak, thus putting all their chips in the U.S. Senate race and not potentially anger swing voters who could make the difference in that contest? Or do they go ‘all in’ and risk angering more moderate Republicans and swing voters who appear to be more inclined to generally support Republicans in 2022?

“The results of the election prove that Trump (or at least Trumpism) is still alive and well in the Pennsylvania GOP. While Trump’s endorsement came late and was negligible to the outcome, it still shows the power of his message and base. The challenge for Mastriano now is how does he expand his coalition?”

“His first opportunity was an abject failure–using his victory speech to outline far-right priorities he’d tackle on day one of his administration–priorities that I believe are not shared by the majority of Pennsylvanians,” Jubelirer added.

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DelVal Pundits, Politicians React to Tuesday’s Election

Republicans are smiling and Democrats are scratching their heads about the outcomes of some high-profile races on Nov. 2. Political pundits and politicians are offering their thoughts on what it means, if anything, for the midterm election in 2022.

In the closely-watched Virginia race, businessman Glenn Youngkin beat longtime Democratic operative and former Gov. Terry McAuliffe.  The race was a referendum of sorts on President Joe Biden and his handling of illegal immigration, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal, the economy and inflation, the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and other travels, along with a failure of messaging on McAuliffe’s part. While Youngkin spoke about issues that matter to Virginians, like education and rising prices, McAuliffe brought in Biden, former President Barck Obama, and other national Democrats to campaign for him.

Biden sold himself as a competent politician and a reasonable Democrat but has governed like a progressive, so moderate Democrats and independents are becoming disenchanted, analysts say.

Franklin & Marshall Professor Berwood Yost, director and chief methodologist of Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Opinion Research, spoke with the Delaware Valley Journal on Wednesday.

“It certainly tells us something about right now,” said Yost. “And that is there’s some malaise perhaps among Democrats. We see some weakening among liberals, some moderates, as I said, who may have supported the president and his party. Suburban voters, women didn’t come out. That’s going to be a huge problem in 2022 if it continues.”

Odd-year elections tend to be low-turnout affairs, but this year suburban voters appeared to be more motivated while Democratic strongholds like Philadelphia had lower participation.

“When you think back to where we were a year ago, nearly 80 percent of the state’s registered voters came out to vote in the presidential election,” said Yost. “I’m guessing that in this particular race, we’re going to be lucky to be around 30 percent of the state’s voters, registered voters coming out.” That would be typical for an odd-year election.

Charlie Gerow, a Republican political strategist running for governor, says he believes voters are disenchanted with the Democrats, and Tuesday’s results bode well for the GOP in 2022.

“Tuesday was a really strong message from parents and patriots,” said Gerow. “And I believe next year Pennsylvania will send the same message. And all of us are anxious to have our voices heard in favor of a strong economy and quality education where parents are in charge. and for individual liberty and freedom. I think the vast majority of Pennsylvanians want these things.”

Guy Ciarrocchi, president of the Chester County Chamber of Business and Industry, who is also a gubernatorial candidate, said, “These results are only the beginning. Clearly, there are thousands of voters who have rejected the left-wing Democrat party—a party of mandates and arrogance, lacking respect for parents and citizens. But, this is not a guarantee for a Republican victory in 2022.

“We must prove to voters that we will focus on restoring power into the hands of citizens, away from government,” said Ciarrocchi. “We must be committed to solving real problems. Let’s get people back to work and grow our economy. Let’s make sure our kids are learning what they need to succeed—and, aren’t being used as political pawns to promote radical agendas.

“To be successful in 2022, the GOP must welcome those frustrated voters—especially from our suburbs— and earn their trust with a common-sense conservative platform based on restoring power to parents and local businesses. We must offer a path forward,” said Ciarrocchi.

Republican David Galluch, who is running for Congress in Delaware County, said, “Yesterday’s election outcomes indicate the American people are rejecting the agenda of President Biden and his allies in Congress. Families and parents are tired of their concerns being ignored — when it comes to their children, when it comes to their economic well-being, and when it comes to their view that leaders have been unresponsive and unable to deliver results.

“Voters are looking for leaders who will listen to them, represent them, and inspire justified pride in who we are as a nation,” said Galluch. “The results in Virginia, New Jersey, and here in Pennsylvania show Americans want positive change and an escape from the hardships President Biden and a Democratic Congress have created and presided over the last year.”

Professor Robin Kolodny, who chairs the political science department for Temple University, does not believe this week’s elections presage much for next year’s midterms. She cited Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball as a source, saying, “Virginia is not a very good predictor of the midterm elections.”

And despite the fact New Jersey is a deep-blue state Biden carried by 16 points just a year ago, Kolodny says Gov. Phil Murphy’s razor-thin reelection should be viewed as good news for Democrats. “The bottom line – it looks like the parties might have to call it a draw, which is not very helpful for predicting anything about 2022.”

In 2009, Republican candidates overperforming in New Jersey and Virginia foreshadowed a Democratic “shellacking” — as Obama called it at the time — in. 2010, when Republicans took 63 seats in Congress to win the majority.

Pundits also mentioned the redistricting process redrawing maps across the U.S.

“And another thing – probably the most important issue right now for the midterm elections is how the new maps will look in certain key states. Expect some surprising court decisions in some places,” she said.

Yost also said redistricting will be important to the 2022 election landscape.

“Pennsylvania is a 50-50 state in many ways,” said Yost. And I think we’re going to see competitive races depending on how those districts are redrawn. We’re going to have an odd number of (congressional) seats. We’re going to lose a seat.”

But with a Democratic governor and Republican legislature, “we won’t get the kind of gerrymandered maps we did in 2011.” But he expects “plenty of close races and we’ll probably see a close split in the delegation after 2022.”

Galluch also mentioned redistricting as key.

“The redistricting process will create new lines for our congressional districts,” said Galluch. “It will not change the concerns and will of the electorate. Voters in Virginia were clear — as I believe they were in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It’s time for change, it’s time for new leadership, and it’s time to put partisan politics aside so we can solve our nation’s most pressing issues.”

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