“Sure, there’s a disappointment in what happened, but the cause, the cause goes on. Don’t get cynical. Don’t get cynical because look at yourselves and what you were willing to do, and recognize that there are millions and millions of Americans out there that want what you want, that want it to be that way, that want it to be a shining city on a hill.”
Those were the words of Ronald Reagan to his campaign staff and supporters the day after a narrow loss to President Gerald Ford for the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 1976. And they are especially relevant today.
The 2012 presidential election did not turn out as I would have hoped. But close does count only in horseshoes and we accept the fact that the GOP lost. However, we have not lost our drive to fight for the principles that we believe in. And there are many reasons to be optimistic heading into future statewide elections.
Despite President Obama’s statewide victory, Republicans were able to grow our support in 64 of 67 counties. Mitt Romney earned more than 2.6 million votes — which means 47 percent of the electorate voted against President Obama and the Democrats. This means that Mitt Romney outperformed voter registration in Pennsylvania and cut the president’s margin of victory in half compared with his 2008 results.
Further examining the election results regionally yields additional insights.
In the Southeast, the most populated area of our commonwealth, Republicans made substantial improvements in swing counties like Chester and Bucks, both of which outperformed their 2004 and 2008 results. While Montgomery County fell just short of 2004 margins, it improved greatly on its 2008 results.
In parts of Southwestern Pennsylvania, Republicans earned dramatic improvements. Our strategy to build a coalition of Republicans and Reagan Democrats exhausted the Obama campaign, and we won in places that had been Democrat bastions for decades, such as Cambria, Blair, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties.
Thus, the Republican Party is ready to reinvigorate its strategy to compete in critical elections in 2014 and 2016. Thanks to the thousands of activists who share the Republican vision of limited government, the GOP still is by far the dominant party in statewide politics. We control the governor’s mansion; have strong majorities in the state House and Senate; serve in one of two U.S. Senate seats; have a 13-member congressional delegation that is among the largest in the country; and control 51 of 67 county courthouses.
It’s clear that Pennsylvania is not only a swing state, it is a red state. And we will continue to look forward for new and innovative ways to expand and engage our base of support.
Rob Gleason is the chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania.