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Philly GOP’s ‘Rock Bottom’ 2023 Election Isn’t Party’s End, Supporters Say

Republican “vote whisperer” Scott Presler came to Philadelphia on Saturday to do training for Republicans and bring hope to a demoralized city party.

Philly Republicans are frustrated, and with good reason. The party was humiliated in last month’s municipal elections when it lost the two city council seats reserved for the minority party to the far-left Working Families Party. There are now just two Republicans left in the entire elected city government.

“I think it’s a broader trend that really needs to be addressed about how competitive the Republican Party can be in a city that is diverse and in urban environments,” Republican City Commissioner Seth Bluestein told NBC 10. Bluestein also noted GOP mayoral candidate David Oh outperformed every Republican since Sam Katz in 2003.

Oh got 24 percent of the vote in his loss to Democrat Cherelle Parker.

“We need to engage the grassroots,” Philadelphia 5th Ward (Center City) GOP Chairman Michael McLaughlin told DVJournal. “And the Republican Party needs to have better outreach given that 2024 is upon us.”

“We had a nuclear meltdown,” McLaughlin added. “When you’re at rock bottom, there is only one place to go: up.”

Sam Oropeza, who ran for city council and state Senate, hosted Saturday’s event at a new apartment building in Kensington.

“What really bothers me, being a Republican here in Philadelphia is we stopped conservatives from throughout the whole state of Pennsylvania from getting into Harrisburg, where they belong. We need your help, and we need to take action.”

“I’m proud to be a Republican,” Oropeza continued. “I’m proud of our values…And we are a wide, diverse group of people.”

Oropeza said one reason for the GOP’s collapse was the unwillingness to use mail-in ballots.

“We’re not going to change the laws before 2024, so early voting, we must build a presence here,” said Oropeza. “Get out. Share voter applications. Share vote-by-mail applications. Show people how to do this.”

Presler echoed that view, saying embracing mail-in ballots is critical for the GOP to win in 2024. For the Supreme Court race in November, Democrats had 450,000 mail-in ballots already locked in. The Republican judge, Carolyn Carluccio, lost by 200,000 votes.

“So, in part, the mail-in ballots secured the victory for the Dems,” said Presler. “Based on voter registration data that, the mail-in voter is 87 percent more likely to vote. An in-person voter is 53 percent likely to vote,” said Presler. “Every mail-in ballot that the Democrats get locked in, they’re likely to get their voters to the polls than we are.” Two people had told Presler they could not go to Saturday’s event. One because their child had an earache, and the other because they had an unexpected issue. The same thing happens on Election Day, he noted.

“To beat Joe Biden, we have to have a diverse approach to voting,” said Presler.

He showed the group of about 45 people how to use his app, Early Vote Action. It shows Republicans living nearby and offers scripts for knocking on doors, phone calls, scripts for texts, and thank you letters.

“I hear complaints from voters: ‘Scott, I’ve lived here in Philly for 60 years. No one’s ever knocked on my door.’ We’re the people who are going to introduce them, going to bring them to the Republican Party.”

And while David Oh’s 24 percent might sound depressing, Presler argued that it could be a game-changer on a statewide level. If the GOP can deploy at least 20 percent of the Philadelphia vote for whomever the 2024 presidential nominee is, “it’s game over,” and the Keystone State would go into the GOP’s column.

Albert Eisenberg, a political consultant with BlueStateRed, worked for Drew Murray and Jim Hasher, the two Republicans who lost the at-large council seats reserved for the minority party.

“They were organized and funded from out-of-state,” Eisenberg said about Working Families. “They’re operating as a branch of the Democratic Party. They’re not a minority party. They’re clearly collaborating with the local Democrats. They endorsed people in the mayoral and city council races.”

Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro endorsed Working Families Councilwoman Kendra Brooks.

Eisenberg also said the media, including The Inquirer, was “not curious about what it means to be supported by the democratic socialists.”

“They are the people that helped organize the Hamas rally on Walnut Street,” said Eisenberg. “And if it were a white supremacist rally, you’d better believe The Inquirer would have been all over it. I would say there was a lack of curiosity on the part of the left-leaning media people. Look how they cover (District Attorney Larry) Krasner.”

Until there is “more balance” in the media and in Philadelphia’s elected officials, “the city is going to just keep going backward,” he said.

Temple Political Science Professor Robin Kolodny said, “I do not think it is appropriate to say that the Republican Party in Philadelphia did anything ‘wrong’ in 2023. Political movements are only as robust as the number of your supporters, so this reflects that Philadelphia and its surrounding counties are trending more Democratic.

“In other parts of the state, the Republican Party is dominant, and the Democrats are less effective. The real question for Republicans everywhere is whether new voters are going to join their party or not. Every day, someone turns 18 years old, and someone else passes. If those people are of the same party, nothing changes. That is what a lot of organizers are paying careful attention to,” Kolodny said.

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