PA GOP STRATEGY MEMO: Failed Obama Agenda Continues To Set Up Big Republican Wins

To: Interested Parties
From: Mike Barley, PA GOP Executive Director
Date: November 16, 2011
Subject: Failed Obama Agenda Continues To Set Up Big Republican Wins

If the outcomes of the 2009, 2010 and 2011 elections serve as a forecast for next year’s presidential election, President Barack Obama should be very concerned about his re-election campaign in the Keystone State. Thanks to President Obama’s failed economic agenda, Pennsylvania voters are embracing Republican candidates who will stand and fight against the failed Obama policies.

Tuesday’s elections should serve as a rallying point for Republicans as well as the latest in a string of wake-up calls for President Obama’s re-election campaign and the Democrat Party. For Democrat candidates who ran in 2011, Obama’s failed policies made for disastrous politics. By tying Democratic candidates to the President’s policies directly, relating big government Obama style plans to similar local programs and using candidates’ past support for this unpopular President, Obama played a central and critical factor in each one of our victories.

At the statewide level, despite a significant statewide voter registration disadvantage of more than 1.2 million voters, Republican Anne Covey defeated Democrat Kathryn Boockvar in her 2011 bid for Commonwealth Court, winning with 52.4% of the vote. In terms of fundraising, Covey and her opponent were evenly matched, but our campaign operation and a favorable environment put Covey over the top in an odd-year election where turnout hovered around 23% statewide.

Republican candidate for Superior Court Vic Stabile lost his bid for Superior Court only because of a late $300,000 contribution from Philadelphia trial lawyers that unfairly tilted the campaign war chest to the Democrats by a 2-1 margin. Covey’s win is a clear indicator that all when all factors are equal, President Obama’s Democrat Party is a liability for candidates running in Pennsylvania. In the Superior Court race, Democrats had to spend significant dollars to compensate for their party’s toxic brand.

In 2011, the more interesting implications occurred at the local level, where Republicans took 13 courthouses out of Democrat control, expanding the majority of Republican-controlled courthouses to 75%, from 40 in 2007 to 51 today (see figure 1 and figure 2).

Figure 1:

Figure 2:

The following county commissioner candidates were victorious:

  • Doug McLinko, Daryl Miller — Bradford County
  • Mark Wissinger, Doug Lengenfelder — Cambria County
  • Wayne Nothstein, Thomas Gerhard — Carbon County
  • Steve Dershem, Chris Exarchos — Centre County
  • Jeffrey Snyder, Pete Smeltz — Clinton County
  • Dan Freeburg, Janis Kemmer — Elk County
  • Basil Huffman, Norman Wimer — Forest County
  • Dan Vogler, Bob Del Signore – Lawrence County
  • Matt McConnell, John Lechner — Mercer County
  • John Moyer, Charles Garris — Monroe County
  • Frank Staudenmeier, George Halcovage — Schuylkill County
  • Mike Giangriego, Alan Hall — Susquehanna County
  • Chuck Anderson, Tyler Courtney — Westmoreland County

Nine of these wins occurred in “blue” counties where Democrats have a registration advantage — Cambria, Carbon, Centre, Clinton, Elk, Lawrence, Mercer, Monroe and Westmoreland. Only four of the counties we picked up — Bradford, Forest, Schuylkill and Susquehanna — have a Republican registration advantage. In all of these counties we witnessed Republicans, Independents and even Democrats rejecting Democratic candidates, their big government agenda and President Obama, proving that great Republican candidates can compete and win even in the Democratic counties in the Commonwealth.

The story lines are even more intriguing when looking at each race county-by-county and case-by-case. Consider Westmoreland County, where Democrats out-register Republicans 53% to 38%, yet Republicans won the courthouse for the first time in more than 50 years, winning two commissioners and sweeping all of the row offices. Carbon County continued its winning streak for a third year in a row, building upon a successful judicial race for the Court of Common Pleas in 2009 and a successful State Representative race in 2010 to a majority of commissioner positions in 2011. Democrats out-register Republicans in Carbon County 50.0% to 37.3%. In these cases, we see conservative “Reagan Democrats” coming out in droves for Republican candidates. The even more telling statistic is that Republican county commissioner candidates finished one and two, garnering the most and second most votes, by convincing margins in seven out of nine of the “blue” counties Republicans won on Election Day.

Two lessons can be learned from the 2011 elections. First, Republicans have a tremendous advantage at the grassroots level where our volunteer workers continued to show that they are active and engaged. Second, the wind that was with Republicans in 2009 and 2010 is still blowing and it may be even stronger. It’s not just Kathryn Boockvar and 13 once-Democrat controlled courthouses, but President Obama who lost last week. While each county in Pennsylvania is unique, a universal distaste for President Obama’s failed policies was found everywhere and Republicans were successful in large part because we related the ongoing national debates surrounding spending and taxes to issues at the local level.

Winning in 2012

The lessons of the past three years tell us that Democrats will continue to struggle under the weight of President Obama’s unpopularity. A day is a lifetime in politics, but if the current political narrative sustains through a majority of next year, the hill President Obama and his Democratic Party need to climb in order to win elections gets steeper by the day. Those hills are turning into mountains in Pennsylvania. The President’s approval ratings are now upside down in Pennsylvania with the latest Franklin & Marshall poll showing that only 42% believe he deserves re-election. Internal polling we have conducted in southwestern Pennsylvania, has President Obama’s approval numbers in the teens in some counties.

Plummeting approval ratings coupled with the fact that the President’s Democratic Party and his candidates have already lost three years in a row in Pennsylvania, despite a 1.2 million Democrat voter registration advantage, should be incredibly worrisome for his re-election team. It’s clear that the 2012 Presidential election will come down to perennial bellwethers like Ohio and Florida, but Pennsylvania, a state that some “experts” were attempting to write off as lean-Democrat has proven itself a swing state.

Pennsylvania Republicans have built near supermajorities at every measurable level, controlling the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s office, a U.S. Senate seat, 12 of 19 Congressional seats, 30 of 50 State Senate Seats, 112 of 203 State Representative seats, 4 out of 7 seats on the Supreme Court, 9 out of 15 seats on the Superior Court and 7 out of 9 seats on the Commonwealth Court and now, 51 of 67 county courthouses. We will build upon these victories to achieve our ultimate goal in 2012: delivering Pennsylvania for the Republican presidential nominee, winning an additional U.S. Senate Seat, winning three state row office positions, electing Republican congressional members and building on our majorities in the State Senate and State House.