Tuesday’s election results were a gut punch to a party predicting a “red wave” but then got a red trickle instead.

Despite a favorable national political environment, Pennsylvania Republicans lost the governor’s race by an embarrassing margin, lost a Republican-held U.S. Senate seat to an unqualified, incoherent candidate, and as of this writing, could still possibly lose majority control of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the first time in more than a decade.

These pages and the editorial voice of Broad + Liberty rarely wade into national or presidential politics. When conceived, Broad + Liberty was designed to focus on Philadelphia, southeast Pennsylvania, and state issues — in that order.

READ MORE — The Editors: What we learned from our Candidate Spotlight Series

Yet we are stepping out of those boundaries to make this one-time recrimination because on Tuesday the bill came due: Donald Trump cost the state party dearly in nearly every part of the commonwealth.

If Pennsylvania Republicans hope for better than what they got this week — and how could they not? — they will have to jettison Trump’s influence. The grassroots will have to reorient itself around that new reality. The party leadership will have to do much better than its reliance on strategic ambiguity to obfuscate its actual position on Trump and Trumpism to its voters. 

It’s easy to understand why the rank and file in the commonwealth aligned themselves with Trump after he took over the party in 2016. He won a state that a Republican presidential candidate had not won since George H.W. Bush’s election of 1992. He fights! He wins! It was invigorating.

Yet in doing so, Republicans conveniently overlooked the narrow margin of Trump’s victory in Pennsylvania, especially one that came against one of the worst presidential candidates in memory, Hillary Clinton. The party acted as though a new Republican Revolution had been delivered when in fact it had squeaked by on a slim 44,000 votes.

The first lesson from Tuesday’s disaster is that only Trump can campaign like Trump — others shouldn’t even try. That’s not a compliment, a put down, or anything else, it’s just a statement of fact. Doug Mastriano, as clear a Trump disciple as there ever was, boasted he would smoke Josh Shapiro like a cheap cigar. Instead, his attempt to mimic elements of Trump’s campaign style, especially his total disdain for the media, was a farce, a cheap off-Broadway version of Trump’s once-in-a-lifetime performance. 

Oz fits into this lesson as well. High name-recognition from TV doesn’t mean you will steamroll the competition. Oz ultimately proved to be serious and substantive on the issues, however the carpetbagger critiques and flubs like the “crudité” cringe added up over time. He did his best, but only someone not from Pennsylvania would think he was a natural fit for the commonwealth.

The next lesson is old hat politics, but was somehow forgotten: being competitive up and down the ticket may not yield a clean sweep, but it delivers more wins. Mastriano’s dead weight at the top of the ticket could be felt all the way down to local legislative races. In many critical suburban precincts, it was registered Republicans, not just Democrats, who dismissed Monstriano as an unacceptable candidate. 

This issue is a particular indictment of Trump’s style. While the cohesiveness and competitiveness of an entire ballot matter, Trump is willing to denigrate or sabotage any part of the ticket in order to feed his ego. Examples of this are too numerous to list, but losing two Senate seats in Georgia in 2020 and putting yet another at risk in 2022 in that same state over the false stolen-election claims certainly top the list.

Additional evidence is that Mastriano was a Trump-backed candidate, but received precious little if any of Trump’s war chest, even though it was clear early on that fundraising was going to be an insurmountable hurdle for Mastriano. Why would Trump not help to provide the necessary resources for his acolyte in one of the nation’s most important swing states? 

Finally, Trump’s constant pursuit of overturning the 2020 election caused too much energy to be spent chasing the wind, when it needed to be spent on the issues keeping most voters up at night and the blocking and tackling of good old-fashioned coalition building. Few organizations can make this charge with more credibility given our dogged pursuit of the truth in how Zuckbucks influenced election administration in 2020. 

Turning away from Trump means more than just not voting for him in the 2024 primary because, in the end, it is not just about rebuking the man himself but the vapid politics that he and the sycophants with whom he surrounds himself share. 

It should mean a return to advocating policies that will attract independent-minded voters in the wake of gut wrenching inflation and crime, while abandoning things like grade-school nicknames, putdowns, and taunts. It should also mean putting an end to Republican purity tests and pejorative shaming that goes with them like “RINO.” The RINO nickname (“Republicans in name only”) overlooks one little fact — these Republicans might have the occasional liberal peccadillo here or there, but they actually win elections and overwhelmingly support actual conservative principles. 

Days before Mastriano entered the primary race, he didn’t attack Democrats, he attacked his own party.

“When we announce Saturday, I think it’s going to send a political explosion across Pennsylvania that the RINOs and establishment have never seen,” he said.

If we do our job right at Broad + Liberty, we hopefully will occasionally tell you truths that make you mad.

Tuesday’s results showed the party needs every vote it can corral, particularly in the southeast, and cannot purposefully push voters away in fits of sanctimony, or to drink liberal tears.

It’s easy to blame “the party” for such a missed opportunity. While these pages have more or less begged the party to assert itself more boldly, it’s also true that the party has been defanged by campaign finance reforms and feckless leadership. The grassroots own the show now, but the grassroots are a herd of cats.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick continues to be a model for continued Republican competitiveness in the commonwealth. Representing a U.S. House district based in Bucks County that is purple enough to resemble some of the political complexities the party faces statewide, Fitzpatrick is always making progress in that most dissatisfying but trustworthy of ways: two steps forward, one step back. It may not deliver the dopamine hit of a devastating tweet that “owns the libs,” but what it does deliver is actual results — winning easily in a congressional district that Trump lost to President Biden by five points in 2020.

It is also noteworthy that in 2020, Pennsylvania voters rejected Trump but ousted Democrat statewide incumbents for the first time since 1994 in favor of Republicans down ballot for Treasurer and Auditor General. Voters were less forgiving this go around.

At all costs, Republicans must stridently throw off excuses that may feel good in the moment, like blaming the loss on the media, election board bureaucrats, or whatever other boogeyman. If personal responsibility is still a hallmark of conservative thinking as we hope it is, Pennsylvania Republicans must identify and embrace the reasons for the losses that can actually be corrected with the appropriate and imperative leadership changes. 

Finally, it’s worth noting that nationally, the right-of-center media led many of its followers astray by enabling in some form or another of the mistakes already listed, and by purposefully looking away from hard truths in favor of more flattering and entertaining narratives.

If we do our job right at Broad + Liberty, we hopefully will occasionally tell you truths that make you mad. We’d rather you be mad at us at some minor point in the road in April or July. It is far better than the bitter and longer-lasting distaste left after a brutal, bruising defeat on the next election day.

Broad + Liberty is a nonprofit media endeavor dedicated to sharing voices and stories that are shut out of other media outlets. @BroadAndLiberty

10 thoughts on “The Editors: Pennsylvania Republicans — Are you tired of winning yet?”

  1. NOPE.. Not Tired of winning.

    TRUMP MAGA DID GREAT! REAL MAGA, NOT THE FAKERS.

    TAKING THE HOUSE OF REPS, and running it along with the Repub Freedom caucus, and a few stale, leftovers…

    Maga and Trump are not going away..

    Cannot wait for January 2024.

    Saddle UP!

    1. MAGA Rules are not the problem of Trump 2024 It is the rhinos that lost PA were the candidates after they lost the primary they were nowhere to be found. They instead sabotage the people’s agenda. Then they want to play the blame game and then look at the facts, they lost. I am happy I saw them in the primary. I attended their rallies and their debates. I vetted every one of them. The right people won the primaries. Then the loser was just that loser and they proved it by not getting on board with who the people voted for. They lost the election and now play the blame game.

  2. Lots of good points made here. I would also add that redistricting added to the complexities of this election cycle.

  3. Brian Fitzpatrick is a big fat RINO and so many here in Bucks are so sick of him that we’d rather have seen his Democrat opponent win. Yes, he’s THAT bad. He wins because he rides on the coattails of his deceased brother (who was an actual conservative), and because the party machine at the county level always backs him. I’m not making this up…Google his voting record and you’ll see he’s not a conservative at all, and his percentage of votes aligned with Biden upwards of 60 some percentage of the time.

    1. Amanda – how dumb do you sound? You’re upset he votes 60% of the time – where likely most other people do because 80% of votes are not controversial.

      You would rather someone who votes 100% of the time?

      Stop being a child. No one gets everything they want all the time.

  4. I have a different view. I think the RINOs (more accurately CINOs) are still the problem, and I will stick with Donald J Trump.

    I grant that Mastriano’s candidacy was weird. He said some of the right things but he arrived out of nowhere from the army, barely occupied a state legislature seat, won a primary with heavy funding from Democrats and then disappeared, acting for all the world like an opposition plant. On the Senate side there was Oz. He’s not discussed in this editorial, because his loss contradicts the B&L editors’ theory: he was a bourgeois moderate who lost to a radical. And if the B&L editors don’t like Oz they should consider that he only won the primary (even with a Trump endorsement) because national GOP put forth a liberal globalist hedge fund manager (can’t even remember his name) as the more official candidate. Mastriano and Oz were losers but their losses are not an argument for putting the Koch Brothers and corporate money back in the drivers’ seat.

    Blaming this latest election fizzle (PA and nationally) on Donald Trump is establishment spin: it is their last effort to persuade people out of supporting Trump before they’re forced to destroy him openly. The “principled center right” including the Koch Brothers funding network, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the national security state want to convince regular conservatives, based on this election result, that if we all just go back to the Bush/Cheney/Romney/McCain days, conservatives will start winning again in red waves. Does anyone really believe that? No, even the writers of this editorial probably don’t believe that, but they want the GOP to continue serving as a vehicle for their sponsors.

    The “principled center right” exists in fact less to fight the left wing than it does to keep “old right” conservatism (once upon a time just called conservatism) out of power: immigration restriction, a worker-centered economic policy, antitrust enforcement, strategic trade policy and a realist, non-militaristic foreign policy are all more threatening to the GOP donor class than any cultural movements coming from the left. For that reason they buried Trump’s forerunner, Patrick Buchanan. The court historians and writers of “Conservatism, Inc.” have shoved Buchanan’s forerunners like Senator Robert Taft down the memory hole and disowned other figures who don’t fit their libertarian redefinition of the word “conservative.” How Tucker Carlson still survives on a corporate TV station I don’t know: he is the lone exception. Anyways, the “principled center right” haven’t yet fully destroyed Trump but they will not stop until they do.

    Is all that too conspiratorial? Fine, discard that argument, tell yourself the Republican establishment really are conservative, and ask yourself if they can win anymore with non-Trump messaging. I believe they cannot. Affluent families in the Philly suburbs just aren’t conservative anymore, not even on economics. If the Republicans want to win they must become the party of the white working class if only out of necessity.

    I would also point to major changes in Pennsylvania and nationwide that can be attributed to “center-right” policy itself and have made it untenable: (1) 40 years of economic policy that destroyed upward mobility, creating more class consciousness and a sense that prosperity is not shared (2) mass third world immigration starting in 1964 that replaced a formerly 93% white population and put racial identity permanently in play (3) No-excuse mail-in voting, approved unanimously by Pennsylvania Republicans as Act 77 of 2020.

    Finally, let’s remember also that the GOP playbook for this cycle WAS the centrist one. The plan was to talk about inflation, gas drilling, and school closures, that is, to play it safe and not try to counter ANY of the madness in our culture: the continued presence in public life of Richard Levine and $16 million of Pennsylvania taxpayer money for “Gender Affirming Care” on minor children, to take just the most obvious and evil example. This is not the way to win. The way to win is to whip the base on social issues that tick them off. The big winner for the GOP, Ron DeSantis, did this beautifully. The most winning GOP politician right now is a Trump clone and here is Broad & Liberty telling me I should reject Trump and Trump-style politics. I enjoy reading Broad & Liberty for their local content but their political orientation is wrong.

  5. I grant that Mastriano’s candidacy was weird. He said some of the right things but he arrived out of nowhere from the army, barely occupied a state legislature seat, won a primary with heavy funding from Democrats and then disappeared. On the Senate side there was Oz. He’s not discussed in this editorial, because his loss contradicts the B&L editors’ theory: he was a bourgeois moderate who lost to a radical. And if the B&L editors don’t like Oz they should consider that he only won the primary (even with a Trump endorsement) because national GOP put forth a liberal globalist hedge fund manager (can’t even remember his name) as the more official candidate.

    Blaming this latest election fizzle (PA and nationally) on Donald Trump is establishment spin: the latest of countless efforts to discredit Trump. The “principled center right” including the Koch Brothers funding network, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the national security state want to convince conservative voters, based on this election result, that if we just go back to the Bush/Cheney/Romney/McCain days of the party, conservatives will start winning again. Of course they don’t actually care about representing you: all they care about is promoting their libertarian philosophy (not the same as conservatism).

    This election was a disappointment, but the fact is that Republicans have a harder and harder uphill climb in every cycle, not because of Trump, but by the results of their own “center right” policies, which have given us the following:
    (1) de-industrialization and financial-ization that have destroyed upward mobility, creating more class consciousness and a sense that prosperity is not shared (2) mass third world immigration starting in 1964 that replaced a formerly 93% white population and put racial identity permanently in play (3) No-excuse mail-in voting, approved unanimously by Pennsylvania Republicans as Act 77 of 2020. I believe these three things are now insurmountable for the old business-class Republican party. Only a GOP that motivates the white working classes (i.e. the MAGA crowd) will ever win again consistently.

    Finally, let’s remember also that the GOP playbook for this cycle WAS the centrist one. The plan was to talk about inflation, gas drilling, and school closures, that is, to play it safe and not try to counter ANY of the madness in our culture: the continued presence in public life of Richard Levine and $16 million of Pennsylvania taxpayer money for “Gender Affirming Care” on minor children, to take just the most obvious and wicked example. This is not the way to win. The way to win is to whip the base on social issues that tick them off. The big winner for the GOP, Ron DeSantis, did this beautifully. The most winning GOP politician right now is a Trump clone! How does one conclude then that Trump-style politics is wrong?

      1. It wasn’t the double post. It was the content.

        Anyone that has the balls to convince themselves through logical gymnastics that this wasn’t about Trump and far right power holding Republican ticket back from winning deserves to look bad.

        Get over it – SE PA has the majority of the votes. They vote center to center left.

        You move further right, the more Rook for dems to get crazier people on the ballot. You move candidates to the center, Republicans win on issues.

        The direct correlation to losing has occurred since Republicans abandoned SE PA Repubs as being RINOs.

        You lost. It’s your fault. It’s Trumps fault. It’s Mastrianos fault. Moderate Republicans lost because we DID NOT run a center right campaign. We ran a far right candidate and a Trump endorsed candidate at the top of the ticket.

        Down ballot tried to run to the center and didn’t lose AS BAD. Play the strategy game and stop making it personal. Far right is unelectable in a purple state.

  6. I voted for Donald Trump in both presidential runs. I own it unashamedly because of three reasons: first, he singlehandedly derailed the coronation of Jeb Bush, which was an elitist attempt to install a dynasty; second, he defeated Hillary and that also derailed another elitist attempt to install a dynasty; third he attempted to do everything that he said he would do on the campaign trail when he got in office. Just think, almost every candidate for President, both Republican and Democrat, over the past 40 years said they would move the US embassy to Jerusalem, and only he did it. Almost every candidate for President, both Republican and Democrat, usually say that they will cut regulations , and he actually did it. Now, saying all of that, I think that he has totally bought into his own PR at this point. He was wrong to carry on about the 2020 election like he did. His histrionics cost the party the Georgia Senate seat in that runoff. He violated the Reagan rule about speaking ill of fellow Republicans who are running in primaries where he is not on the ballot. He sat on a $100 Million plus war chest and doled out under $10 Million of it to the candidates he supported in getting their nominations for Senator, Governor, and Congressmen. I cannot support his vanity-driven run for another nomination – it’s time he stepped aside.

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