While all the final outcomes are not clear, there are several important, unmistakable trends and obvious strategies and tactics that were employed by the two parties and their candidates — well, three parties in Philly, counting the Working Families Party. 

The analysis offers us a preview of 2024 races and underscores that a portion of the coalition of voters in each party’s camp can be somewhat fluid. How those alliances are formed in 2024 could bring a series of GOP wins, or could lock in Democratic victories for the near-term.

Abortion. abortion. abortion (and voting rights

From the Supreme Court to Philadelphia City Council and Allegheny County races (and, even Commissioners’ races in Chester County), Democrats and their allies may start with abortion or end with abortion, but you can bet your last dollar that they will campaign on abortion whenever any election is in doubt. This motivates their base, keeps most Democrats loyal to the team and scares most independents and soft Republicans—even if the race is for municipal government. Democrat strategists love putting the “scarlet A” on GOP candidates.

Add in a dose of the claim of Republicans making it hard for people of color to vote and presto, the Democrat coalition of women, minorities and those who support them (or, feel obligated to virtue signal). 

Republicans respond with anger or frustration: How much longer will they keep doing this? Spoiler alert: Democrats will keep doing this just as long as the Eagles will keep doing the “brotherly shove”: until it doesn’t work!

The GOP stinks at mail-in voting

That’s unfair: they’d have to actually try in order to fail. While there were isolated cases where county committees or candidates put forth an effort, the only thing that changed in 2023 was the rhetoric. It is now fashionable for many GOP leaders to talk favorably about it and the need to use it as a tool to increase votes. But the rhetoric was late, subdued and there was little money or organized effort. 

Beyond that, many Republican voters are unsure how to do it, and many are still very skeptical of it. Statewide totals still show Democrats with an over 3.5 to 1 advantage, and, in suburban communities many Independents, etc., are essentially Democrats (who may be even further to the left). So, the advantage is even bigger.

Allegheny County is a case study of the split in the Democrat party and the opportunity for the GOP to grow its support. 

As urban and suburban Democrats continue to nominate candidates who sound more like AOC— “Green”/Climate Crisis zealots in the mold of Larry Krasner, we can expect more and more Democrats and their traditional coalition partners in the building trades to endorse, support and vote for the GOP. 

That, of course, means that the GOP has to nominate capable, pro-job-growth, law and order, commonsense candidates who actually want to earn their support. The Allegheny GOP actually nominated the FOP-supported incumbent Democrat DA, after he lost the Democrat nomination to Allegheny County’s “Krasner.”

The GOP still has room to grow. The trend that started three decades ago, with Reagan/Bush and “God & guns” Democrats voting for the GOP. It reached its height around 2004, but then had some backsliding. But the crime issue and building trades versus environmental extremists have created new opportunities for GOP growth. When today’s Democrat party nominates “green” cultists (who also distrust and dislike the police), they are going to force more and more building trades into the GOP, who have been told repeatedly by the Democrats that their jobs are bad—even immoral and harmful—and should be eliminated. Many people do actually vote their interests. 

Philadelphia shows a pathway to move the needle

If David Oh had become mayor, the positive impacts not only for Philadelphia, but the GOP, would have been almost unlimited. David’s vision of the GOP as the party of small business and families of every conceivable ethnic and cultural type on earth — from Honduras to Vietnam, from China to Nigeria — is a breath of fresh air. 

What’s next for him and his outreach?

At the same time, the “Cherelle Parker coalition” that carried her to her primary victory showed that a plurality of Democrats care about law and order, jobs and getting their children and grandchildren a good education. They have neither the time nor interest in virtue signaling politics. But can she create a “Parker” Democrat Party?

She may be able to if Bob Brady has any say. The party boss made it crystal clear that he was for Parker in the primary and opposed the “Working Families Party” candidates for City Council that make his party weaker and divided. 

Listen to him talk and he sounds like someone trying to keep the 1990’s Democrat coalition together. And, when trying to get actual projects done, he’d rather partner with Republicans to help his building trade union friends. What will Parker/Brady voters do if the Krasner/Working Families coalition takes over?

The price of poker has gone up

Way up. Without even counting the parties’ expenditures or what all of the independent political committees spent, in the Supreme Court race, we know that probably over $20 million had been spent to build up or tear down the two candidates. 

The Democrats and their allies have driven up the cost of races across the state for years. The question in recent years has been would the GOP and its friends fight back or roll over. In 2022, they rolled over. This year, the GOP jumped in with both feet.

When I ran for Congress in 2022 — a race that had been viewed as competitive by both parties and many analysts — my committees raised about $1.2 million. The incumbent spent $5.9 million, without even accounting for what her allies like Planned Parenthood spent. (And, yes, five different pieces of direct mail about abortion. See: lesson number one.)

As the minority party, and the party whose candidates are often ignored — or, worse, harmed by corporate media, most Republicans cannot afford to be outspent by 5 to 1. If nothing else, the spending on the GOP side shows that there is a willingness to battle.

2023 shows us what to watch for in 2024

The Democrats’ ongoing warning that the GOP will have women denied abortions and that minorities won’t be able to vote. The Democrat activists desire to nominate the most passionate progressives they can find — and force their nominees to talk that talk. The Democrats’ unending ability to spend millions and millions of dollars…The Democrats’ ongoing tensions amongst old guard and new “progressive” activists and candidates…

Republicans’ new-found willingness to spend money. The GOP’s growth in voter registration. Yet, the GOP’s unwillingness to undertake a serious mail-in ballot and ballot collection effort. The GOP’s willingness — or lack of willingness — to engage first- and second-generation Americans.

Add to these themes the emerging public split amongst Democrats over the response to Hamas’ unprovoked attack on Israel and Israel’s response.

2024 will have its own candidates and its own flare ups. But, these trends and the challenges and opportunities presented will largely dictate success in close races across Pennsylvania.

Guy Ciarrocchi is a Senior Fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation. He writes for Broad+Liberty and RealClear Pennsylvania. Follow him @PaSuburbsGuy.

38 thoughts on “Guy Ciarrocchi: Last night’s election highlights different messages and changing coalitions”

  1. Trump and MAGA are still driving voters away.

    Sorry. The reality is that independent voters are done with him and the MAGA subsidiaries. They were appalled after 2020 and are terrified of him and his people continuing to have a say in government.

    Drop the Trump flag and super conservatives. Retool the messaging and start from ground zero.

    1. I agree, its the truth that Guy and many Republicans can’t admit or won’t admit. It is driving the GOP into the ground. And none of them have the gall to speak out against Trump or the ultra right.

      Then they will say, “are we still talking about that?” And the answer is “yes,” a resounding yes. Because as long as Trump is on the the ticket, it will be a topic of discussion. They can’t let go, because they will lose control. But who is really in control when they continue to let the ultra right run the party.

  2. Guy, it’s incredible that you still don’t get this because it’s a huge part of why you lost. A MAJORITY OF AMERICANS DON’T WANT THE GOVERNMENT TO LIMIT WOMEN’S REPRO RIGHTS. It’s not some hypothetical warning. The Rs want that. You want that. The Dems and most of America don’t. This is not hard. You are losing because you are out of touch

    1. Your party is the Abortion Party, pure and simple. Every Democrat voter worships at the altar of abortion. Going with the mentality of the modern democrat, you refuse to accept responsibility for any of your actions. Alec Baldwin is the poster child for every Democrat voter- I held a gun, I pointed that gun at another human being, I pulled the trigger on that gun and shot that human being I was pointing it at, killing her, BUT IT WASN’T MY FAULT. I’ll go one further, Jenn- I bet you and all your fellow Democrats had ZERO problems with the government forcing employees to get a Covid vaccination or be fired. Yeah, “my body my choice” as long as you get to dictate the terms- if Democrats couldn’t be absolute hypocrites, you couldn’t exist.

      Congratulations on being the party of unfettered abortion- shout it from the rooftops. Funny article right after Roe was overturned in the LA Times about the number of boys running to get vasectomies. Seems it takes a conservative court ruling to get tens of thousands of young men to actually act like responsible adults.

  3. The republican party created these outlandish boogeyman issues that resorted to banning books protect our girls but take away their right to choose…. It really was handmaid’s tale material. That created an extremely vocal minority with no basis in reality. They were not a motivating force to vote for republicans. They were a motivating force to vote against them and the majority of the electorate feels they just need to shut up with the malarkey.

    1. Not big on taking responsibility for your chosen actions, huh James? I know, it’s actually hard to have principles and stand on them. Don’t fret though, you’ll always be welcome in the Democrat Party.

    1. Oh look, another poster addressing none of my claims. Definitely another democrat.

      Cmon, try- you can do it. Refute things (that means prove them wrong). Unless, of course, my offerings are a little too close to home for your insulated existence’s comfort.

  4. Clown Car is why you lose. You created clown car, you empowered Clown Car, and now you have to appease Clown Car every election by maintaining positions that most voters don’t hold. Keep up the good work!!

    1. Gee Jenn, what a well thought-out, nuanced but detailed rebuttal. Go shout your abortion, Jenn. It’ll save you time trying to refute anything I stated, largely because you can’t. Being responsible for your actions is such a drag for people of your mindset.

      1. Also Jenn, no denial on your hypocrisy regarding forced covid vaccinations? I’m shocked, truly. Cmon, shout your hypocrisy!

  5. Clown car get angrier and more extreme and soon you will be a party of one. This is why Republicans are shrinking and independents are leaning democratic.

    1. Mr. Indy, independents are by and large Democrats that just find it “cooler” to call themselves something else- like you for instance.

      There will always be unfortunate situations involving rape, incest, an unviable child, a legitimate threat to the mother’s survival. The fact is that better than 90% of abortion revolves around inconvenience and nothing else. This is an issue of personal responsibility, period. If you can’t accept that fact, tough.
      Angry, no, sorry. Just calling out the lying and hypocrisy of the pro-abortion party. If personal responsibility and accountability is an anathema to you, you probably should try to figure out why.

      1. As much as anyone can agree with you, and I generally do,, it’s still a losing issue for Republicans. No one is persuaded. The sameessage for thenlast 40 years isnt working. It’s getting worse. Stop running on it. Stop defending Trump. Dems want to keep running on these 2 issues.

        There is no reason Republicans should have lost anything with the state of the world and this country.

        1. Dung, with all due respect, you know what else was a losing issue, an issue that to resolve was going to come at great cost, an issue that pitted one half of this country against the other? I’ll give you a hint- the Civil War was fought over it.
          You tell me, was it worth it? And the horrible price in lost lives from that war is a PITTANCE compared to the 60+ million lives we have allowed to be taken due to an activist court that did legal contortions and gymnastics that make John “Gumby” Roberts jealous to create a law that even diehard liberal law scholars, including the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg acknowledged is an incredibly flawed decision.

          1. Clown- I never said we should stop fighting for the side of pro life. I am saying if you keep losing, why keep doing it that way? Find a new way.
            I firmly believe 100% of people do not want to kill babies. 100% want women to have Healthcare and not fear how to make safe choices. How do we create a winning position to sway voters from there?

            Your point of comparing it to the civil war is dumb. In every war, don’t people change strategies and tactics?

            Simply repeating the same mistake doesn’t work and it’s sinking everyone. Democrats and Republicans- because there is no real conversation about it and it drives everyone from talking and functioning.

    1. I’m sure you can answer, Freddy, being the obvious witty and prescient dude we all know and love- what do you have against personal responsibility? None of your kindred spirits on this board seem able to reply.

      Cmon, you got another sharp one-liner to share from your rapier-like wit. Independent thought is hard, isn’t Freddy?

  6. As long as Roe v. Wade was in effect, the grandstanders in the Republican party made ridiculous comments and proposed even more ridiculous laws knowing that the courts would throw them out. Then SCOTUS came out with the Hobbs decision and put the issue where it always belonged – with the voters – and the Democrats were given a terrific opportunity. All they had to do was call up all of that ridiculous crap that the Republican grandstanders had been feeding a small and vocal part of their voter base and throw it in the faces of the Republicans. Instant losses at the polls. And then what do some in the party propose after spending nearly 50 years saying that the abortion question should reside at the state and local level? A national bill restricting abortion access! I am a Republican and I am a pro-life person, but the current leadership of the Republican party is as feckless a bunch of scalawags as one could imagine.

    1. You were also the guy praising your vote for Josh Shapiro a couple months ago. He still hold that glowing shine for you?

      About the only consistency to Josh Shapiro is that he loves abortion, but I have a sneaking feeling that if a poll came out tomorrow saying the majority of Pennsylvania residents opposed abortion, his next tweet would be claiming to be the champion defender of the unborn.

      Your acknowledgment of voting for him casts serious doubt on your “pro life” claim.

    2. Frank, they didn’t even wait for the results at the polls. Once the excitement over Roe v Wade being overturned wore off, they realized they now had to fight the battle in 50 states rather then just at the Federal level – that’s when they started talking about a national ban. The pure genius behind celebrating a legal decision that threw it back to the states only to almost immediately start talking about trying to limit it on a national level, is mind boggling.

    1. And poor little Jenn still can’t answer any questions. Hypocrisy when you get called in it is awkward, huh Jenn. Step outside your insulated wine club and try to think for yourself.

      1. Clown Car, its pretty obvious you’re here to troll, which is fine.

        Reading through your many thoughtful and insightful comments that are obviously not emotional responses (/sarcasm), I don’t really see you making any cohesive points or questions worthy of an answer or rebuttal.

        I also find the bigotry and hypocrisy of the moderators allowing you to insult the other people commenting on this post appalling. If you were supporting the other side making such comments, I doubt they would let them go through. I have made way less childish quips to comments that go never made it through moderation. We’ll see if this gets posted. Otherwise thank you for taking the time to read this moderators.

        1. Wow, lots of “clowns” showing up today. I guess imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery. Shucks, Clown Police, you’re making me blush…..

          I guess having the unmitigated gall to challenge your Democrat tenants is verboten to you (otherwise known to you as “trolling”). It never happens with the cool kids crowd you hang with, so this is really foreign territory for you.. Let’s see, do I go with “I’m sorry, please forgive me, I know not what I have done” or “tough”

          Aw, screw it – tough.

          Sorry, I had a poor upbringing that taught me to tweak the nose of all the self righteous, smartest people in the room crowd.

          Obviously you’re another democrat who has a real difficulty with personal responsibility, which is why you don’t see any reason to address it. Don’t you worry, there’s still plenty of time for you to mature. Independent thought can actually be fun- give it a go!

          1. As an aside, Clown Police, I bet you were the Hall Monitor in 3rd grade, weren’t you?!

            (Hey, if you’re gonna accuse me of trolling, I might as well make you happy!)

  7. Dung, the comparison of the abortion issue and the Civil War was in the broadest sense of, there are some fights that are necessary to have, no matter the cost. Nothing more, nothing less. Your original post to me felt like you were ready to give this up. Obviously misinterpreted your thoughts and I apologize.

    Agreed that different approaches need to be considered, but the combination of a completely biased and lying media coupled with a party in the GOP that is truly feckless and incompetent to the point of being able to screw up a one-car funeral, don’t see a solution any time in the near future.

  8. 1) An autopsy of the election that somehow excludes the orange elephant in the room is simply unserious. Particularly germane to PA, MAGA is toxic in the suburbs. The Chesco courthouse won by the Dems in 2019 for the first time in decades, the Dems retained, same with Delco. The counties have flipped in a MAGA-driven realignment.

    2) Abortion is going to be an albatross for the GOP, because the GOP, like a dog that finally caught the ambulance, didn’t no what to do, and fumbled the overturning of Roe politically. You’ve got about 20% of Americans that oppose it under virtually all circumstances, another 20% on the opposite side that treat it as a “public good”, want it funded by taxpayers, etc. The majority, where swing voters tend reside, fall into the “safe, legal, and rare” camp. There had been a bit of a “truce” previously, with that large middle generally not voting on the issue. Then when Roe gets overturned, instead of using Dobbs as a cudgel against the extreme left, advocating for reasonable restrictions, and making the left defend late-term laws, they instead decide to get aggressive and chase away the center.

    1. See my description of the GOP above. Mr. Magoo, Wile E. Coyote, Charlie Brown and the Washington Generals rolled in to one huge dumpster fire.

  9. Oh Clown Car. You seem to think I have obligation to talk to you. I don’t and I don’t care about you. You see this, Guy? You broke Clown Car. Now you bought him!!

    1. Jenny, I don’t expect or want a reply from a Democrat hypocrite (sorry for the redundancy). That would require honesty from you in acknowledging that you have always lived in a pampered world where rules do or don’t apply based on what Jenny wants. Bully for you!

      Demonstrating your hypocrisy is more than enough interaction with you. Seriously doubt anyone in your life has ever dared tell you “no”. Sorry Punkin, but your consecutive games streak ended.

      1. By the by, Jenn, though I don’t know him, I doubt Guy does hypocrites either. Polite society and all, you know?
        Go back to your wine club sisters and commiserate- they’ll provide you solace and support because they can’t think independently either. And by sisters, in keeping up with your democrat ideology, I mean sisters of both genders, or all five genders, or eight, or however many you have this week.

  10. M4L and the Dobbs decision = play stupid games win stupid prizes. School boards are locked in for the next 4 years as are county commissioners. All thanks to M4L fumbles nationwide and the weaponized Dobbs. The R’s need to pivot quickly or its going to bubble up to the state and federal level quickly

  11. This comment section:
    -could be one single person writing every single comment under different a fictitious name,
    -would embarrass generations from early 1900’s that preceded us,
    -etc (used at the end of a list to indicate that further, similar items are included)
    Some technology is purposedly designed to be addictive. Some of it manipulates us. Some does both things.
    Love your God. Love your neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Everyone is your neighbor.
    Get back to the basics. Review the classics.
    I use my name because we should be able to say things with our name. I do not particularly like everything Jenn writes but sometimes “Jenn” makes decent observations. Trump printed too much money – he reminds me of a wrestling villain people like such as “the Rock”. But the real villains are the oligarchs. I voted for Trump in 2020 because I met too many people from North Carolina trying to buy buildings and they were handling Covid very differently than we were in PA. But Trump is an old fart and inept. Most of the people in politics on all sides are terrified of DeSantis because he is effective and treats them as if he does not need them. So, the far Right and the far Left pull DeSantis down. Nikki Haley is a war monger… change my mind. None of that matters. Love your God. Love your neighbor. Let’s all focus on spreading the good and be more authentic.

  12. Interesting how you point out that Democrats “always” put the scarlet letter on GOP candidates for abortion, while ignoring the fact that the GOP has been hammering on the abortion issue in every election since Roe v Wade was made law. It was the GOP who got it overturned, not the Democrats. The same GOP who applauded the SCOTUS for deeming it an issue for the states almost immediately starts talking about implementing a nationwide ban on the Federal level…Hello? Anyone home? The SCOTUS just ruled that it’s a state issue so what are the chances it will rule against itself an approve a Federal ban? If they did, what level of credibility would they have left with America? The last two election cycles have made it clear that the majority of voters – which requires people from both parties to get to the majority – don’t want absolute bans on abortion. How about taking ownership of the fact that the country had reasonable protections in place for both sides and the GOP couldn’t leave well enough alone (God knows we don’t have any other issues of national importance to worry about) and created a mess that will take years to sort out and may eventually end up with fewer overall restrictions. I’m lifelong GOP and I believe in personal freedom and that freedom extends to women deciding if they want to be mothers. I will vote against GOP candidates until it’s resolved.

  13. The teams targeted yet another minority to exploit in this election. Women. No other issue was addressed in the majority of the political ads as heavily as the abortion issue, although so many other issues have a greater impact to the community as a whole such as education, crime, and the entire health care system.

    I dont understand in 2023 how the Dems keep falsely promoting the idea that the Republicans are disenfranchising voters. I have been a poll worker in Montco for years and none of the policies prevent voters from voting at the polls either live in person or by mail in ballot as long as they are registered to vote in that precinct. Over the last 3 years we have seen a dramatic drop in mail in ballot requests at our precinct and an uptick in in-person voting although our turnout rate is still <20%. Voters who came in person this election who had previously voted by mail in ballot said that they have given up on the mail in ballot system either because they didnt receive the mail in ballot requests to complete or that their completed mail in ballot never made it back to the county.

    There are still many voters out their who have no idea how the voting process works in their county which means that the boards of elections in each county are doing a terrible job educating the public during the year how the voting system works in PA and in their individual county. Many people dont realize that PA has a closed primary, so independents cant vote which disenfranchises voters. So either voters need to pick a party or not vote at least in the primary.
    There is so much information on the PA Votes website that I dont think the majority of the voters in PA understand how to access. Between now and the next primary in May, efforts to educate voters on the ways to vote, how to find resources, how to confirm their registration status, and how to locate their polling location.

    1. Dan, I’m not trying to be rude but you’re linking to a far-right blog as if it’s an authoritative source. That blog is a known extremist conspiracy rag. Without even clicking it and without you telling me anything about yourself I already know a bit about your psyche and politics. You’re clearly hard-right politically but also don’t appear to realize you’re out of the mainstream. How do I know that? You’re reading and to linking a far-right conspiracy blog as if it were the Wall Street Journal or New York Times.

      I’m not looking down on you for reading fringe websites. Frankly, I have guilty pleasures, too. But I don’t link them to random people because I have enough awareness to recognize they are fringe and unserious websites and by extension people will dismiss me as unserious for having cited them.

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