Lessons For The GOP In Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s new governor, Josh Shapiro

I am going to out on a limb and say that if Pennsylvania is a purple state, then we are leaning toward the blue part of the spectrum. Last night’s election had some proof of that.

I’ll get to everyone’s favorite Big Fella in a Hoodie in a moment (Senator John Freakin’ Fetterman). But first, a note about our new governor, Josh Shapiro.

Shapiro has kind of cruised under the radar a bit during this election season. Part of it was the sucking of a lot of the oxygen out of the political room by Fetterman’s stroke and general Fetterman-ness, Oprah’s Favorite Quack, Dr. Oz, and his opponent for governor, Crazed Confederate Uniform Enthusiast Doug Mastriano. In the midst of all that, Shapiro was a Zen island of calm and competentness.

The thing is, Shapiro projects a kind of “boring” flavor of competent politician…until you see him speak. I recommend finding one of his speeches, such as the one he gave last Saturday during the big rally with Obama and Biden (start watching at 30:15 or so). He is a surprisingly gifted speaker and is already generating a little Future Presidential Candidate chatter.

As of this writing, Shapiro is up +13 over Mastriano. That is quite a blowout.

Meanwhile, Fetterman looks to win by roughly four points. Not as big of a victory, but given all the “Oz is closing the gap” hype over the last several weeks, this is a nice win. I am excited that he is a senator. He is recovering from his stroke, and he is both a fighter who has little patience for games and a very thoughtful, empathetic person.

He ran a solid campaign full of humor that was not afraid to point out and laugh at the absurdity of his opponent, right up to the very end.

His family is wonderful, too. His wife Gisele is a beautiful soul, and she would do well in politics with her remarkable immigrant story. But, she is content running her free store, for now.

There is some late-breaking news that makes this great story for Democrats in Pennsylvania complete: they have flipped the state house. This was completely unexpected.

There is a deep lesson here for Pennsylvania GOPers. I would characterize Pennsylvania, overall, as a center-left state. And in a center-left state, far-right state-wide candidates just can’t win.

In 2018, Obnoxious Rich Guy Scott Wagner tried to take out incumbent governor Tom Wolf and lost by 17 points. Wagner, from my home county, attempted to be Trump-lite and be a populist. This included commercials that showed him operating heavy equipment and talk of how he was a “garbageman.” By garbageman, he meant owning a waste management company and being a millionaire.

So, 2022’s result for governor was pretty close to a repeat. A far-right nutjob got cooked by a sensible Democrat. Compare that to Dr. Oz, whose theme during the election was “I’m a moderate who hates extremists!” No, really, the guy who rallied with Trump the Saturday before the election was claiming to be a moderate. This was, of course, the Glenn Youngkin strategy that he used to win the governor of Virginia – claim to be moderate, and let your Super PACs do the dirty stuff.

While some may say it was Fetterman’s debate performance that raised concerns about his stroke recovery, the race had tightened before the debate. While he did not win, Oz was much closer than Mastriano.

Will the Republicans figure this out and realize they can’t run a winger nut and expect to win? That at least pretending to be a moderate gives you a chance to win in an important state that will be huge in 2024?

Probably not. Republicans are not into learning lessons. Ain’t their thang. But in the meantime, the Pennsylvania skies today look a lot bluer than they do purple.

The last word goes to Frankie Yankovic. I’m in a good enough mood to polka.