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County Hall Corner: The Hunt for Red November

Harry Truman held up the famous November 3, 1948 headline on the Chicago Daily Tribune, which stated, “Dewey Defeats Truman,” with a big smile on his face. Last week’s midterm elections might be remembered similarly. The pollsters were unanimous in their assurance that the Republicans would easily control the House of Representatives and, most probably,

Harry Truman held up the famous November 3, 1948 headline on the Chicago Daily Tribune, which stated, “Dewey Defeats Truman,” with a big smile on his face. Last week’s midterm elections might be remembered similarly. The pollsters were unanimous in their assurance that the Republicans would easily control the House of Representatives and, most probably, the Senate. As the saying goes, they were all sincere, and they all were sincerely wrong.

Lycoming County is consistent in voting for Republican candidates. For US Senator, they voted Oz over Fetterman, 67 percent to 29 percent; for governor, it was Mastriano over Shapiro, 64 percent to 34 percent. US Representatives Dan Meuser and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson both won handily, as did PA Assembly Reps Jamie Flick and Joe Hamm.

But Pennsylvania is less predictable than Lycoming County, as the Commonwealth tends to swing back and forth between the parties more than other states. The tea leaves from the political gurus were saying that in 2022, the swing was going away from the Democrats and toward the Republicans. Like the rest of the USA, it did not go that way, even though all the signs appeared to be pointed there. It begs the question — what happened?

This will be discussed and debated for months to come among the election experts, but let me offer a few thoughts to get things started.

First, for Republicans to have any chance of winning a statewide race, they must make a dent in the urban counties of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Allegheny, and Delaware. Philadelphia County went +65 for Fetterman, and the other three counties averaged +28. A good number of these were mail-in ballots (Fetterman had 874,000 mail-ins to Oz’s 215,000, a four-to-one advantage). All this accounts for the 200,000 votes that pushed Fetterman over Oz, and there simply were not enough votes in the rest of the Commonwealth to overcome those numbers.

Another element that has not been talked about since the primaries is what could be called the “Trump Factor.” Both Dr. Oz and Doug Mastriano would probably not have been on the ballot without the endorsement in the primaries by Donald Trump. For everyone who loves Trump, there is at least one (or more) that has exactly the opposite attitude.

Though I personally believe that Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano were very competent candidates, the pragmatist in me would have preferred candidates that did not carry as much baggage as these two. It might have been very interesting to see how David McCormick or even Kathy Barnette would have matched up to John Fetterman or Bill McSwain against Josh Shapiro. The simple fact is, both Republican candidates endorsed by Donald Trump were fighting uphill battles for their entire campaigns.

On the national stage, the one bright spot for the Republicans on election night was Ron DeSantis, who won reelection for Florida governor over Charlie Crist Jr. Crist had served as Florida’s governor from 2007 to 2011 and then became US representative for Florida’s 13th congressional district from 2017 to 2022. Crist is a seasoned politician and was defeated by DeSantis by 20 percentage points! DeSantis appeared to be the only one in the country who swam against the blue wave.

The Republican Party had everything going their way until the actual election on Tuesday, November 8th. They need to change something. The future of the party may be a rather uncomfortable divide between the Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis camps.

But the Democrats will not be able to enjoy this show because they have their own dilemma whether to support Joe Biden for another presidential run and if not him, they will almost be expected to support a run by Kamala Harris. Both of these have poll numbers in the low 40s, and their brand will be hard to change.

It is two years away, but the kickoff will be here before we know it. Bring some popcorn.