With a smaller than usual crowd and no outside speaker to rouse them, the PA GOP had to rely on their own people to get them fired up about the November elections.
Over the course of two days, there were many speeches. Friday night the committee members heard from the two Toms, U.S. Senate candidate Smith and Gov. Corbett.
Smith, unlike his competitor, did not hesitate to mention Sen. Bob Casey by name. (Casey, by contrast, referred to Smith at the Democratic State Committee meeting in terms no more specific than, “my competitor.”) The first line of attack was Smith’s go-to line: calling out the incumbent for being “one and the same” as the President.
“Republicans across this country are getting excited. Americans are rejecting higher taxes, out of control spending and over regulation. Pennsylvania is rejecting the Obama-Casey agenda.”
Smith also blamed Casey and the Democratic-controlled Senate for voting down job-creating or common-sense measures (specifically, the Balanced Budget Amendment Act) that passed the House.
“Bob Casey has voted with Barack Obama’s agenda 95 percent of the time. And you know what? Barack Obama and Bob Casey are 100 percent wrong.”
National Committeeman Bob Asher also made an appearance in what was one of the meeting’s more lighthearted moments. Calling the Governor and Lieutenant Governor to the stage, the committee honored their recent birthdays by singing to them — before being handed a basket of Asher chocolates, of course.
Then it was Gov. Corbett’s turn to speak and reiterate the focal point of the 20 in ’12 dinner: the committee’s pledge to win all 20 of of the state’s delegates for Romney.
“I could not agree more than this is the most important election in our lifetime and we have to take this seriously,” he said.
Corbett expounded upon the differences between Romney and Obama as well: one is a job creator from the private sector, whereas the other “seems to be focused in my mind, on doing everything he possibly can to discourage and obstruct job creators from opening or expanding a business.”
But Corbett also did not hesitate to tout his own accomplishments at the podium. He promised to deliver a budget within the week, making the June 30 deadline for the second year running, and also promising not to raise taxes. He said the budget framework is set, and that Harrisburg lawmakers are working together to continue getting things done.
“Working with the legislature, we’re doing exactly what you elected me to do. For instance, last year we had tort reform. We’ve had Voter ID this year. Unemployment compensation reform. Very key, not really sexy unemployment compensation reform, but we’re going to cut the cost of unemployment compensation debt that we owe the federal government.”
He said that despite the accomplishments of his Republican administration and the work with the legislature, that many people have counted Pennsylvania out, and that pundits call it a blue state.
“If that were the case I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you,” he said.
Working against the registration deficit, Corbett emphasized getting Independents and Dems to switch for the general election; and if they won’t, at least get them to vote R — in both the national as well as state and local elections.
The GOP has two big goals for the state, he said. The first is retaining the seat in the 4th congressional district, which is already considered safe. The other is picking up a seat the GOP has gone after hard ever since the death of longtime Democratic Rep. John Murtha in 2010: PA-12.
Rep. Mark Critz (D-Cambria) has held the seat ever since a 2010 special election. He now faces his fourth challenge, and third against the GOP, who remain hopeful that they can swing the vote in their favor. On that hopeful note, the Friday meeting wrapped.
The next day, the crowd heard from Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, Pa. House Majority Leader Mike Turzai and the remaining statewide office candidates. All shared their accomplishments and qualifications with the audience.
But none delivered a speech that roused the crowd more than State Treasurer candidate and Washington County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughn.
She began with her record and performance as Commissioner, jumping on a key moment to tie her opponent Rob McCord to the President, which the GOP believes is key to picking up seats in the fall.
“Even though I’ve done much of the same kind of work as my opponent, he’s made comments that he doesn’t believe I’m qualified to do this job. You see, my opponent has a Harvard degree and I don’t. But I can think of another elected official on Pennsylvania Avenue with the same Harvard degree and how’s that working out for you?”
But the most stirring part of Irey Vaughn’s speech came after she shared with the committee members that her husband, who had been deployed in Afghanistan, returned home safely on Mother’s Day.
She said that he has added determination to the campaign, and that in his honor she was going to summarize her plan to win the election “the Army way.”
What followed was a no more or less than an enthusiastic two-minute summary of what every campaign does, but in Army terms. She said that her team applies pre-combat inspection before they act and rehearses their materials and battle plan.
“Our unified front is prepared to engage our enemy with superior fire power in the form of” yard signs. “Our weapons status is green and we are about to disperse full combat load to shock and awe our enemy.”
The crowd, which had spent two days in subdued enthusiasm, may have come dangerously close to a collective “Hooah!” at the end of her speech. They did, however, give her a standing ovation after her conclusion that pretty much wrapped up the weekend:
“As you have put your faith and trust in the Armed Forces of the United States of America, put your faith and trust in team Diana Irey Vaughn, along with the U.S. Army. Team Vaughn. Defeat is not an option.”