Trump Campaign Worried About Pennsylvania

Trump campaign officials are worried about the President's chances of holding onto a state that was crucial to his win in 2020. They should be.

Politico is reporting that Trump campaign officials are growing increasingly worried about the President’s ability to hold on to at least one of the states he won in 2016, and that could pose problems for 2020:

Senior Trump 2020 advisers are headed to Harrisburg on Wednesday to meet with Pennsylvania GOP officials amid mounting concerns about the president’s prospects in the critical battleground state.

Trump’s campaign is moving to shore up the state after 2018 midterm elections that saw Republicans get blown out in races up and down the ballot. Compounding the situation is a state party organization riven by turmoil and infighting.

The private meeting, confirmed by a half-dozen party officials, underscores the high stakes for the president in the state. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, and reelection aides view the state’s 20 electoral votes as crucial to his 2020 hopes. Pennsylvania also has symbolic significance: In 2016, Trump geared his campaign toward the state’s large proportion of blue-collar voters, many of whom had traditionally voted Democratic.

The Trump contingent is expected to include political director Chris Carr, who is orchestrating the campaign’s national field deployment, as well as Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, who are overseeing outreach to delegates and state party organizations. Republican National Committee officials are also expected to attend.

The meeting is the first of what Trump aides say will be a series of visits to battleground states. The fact that Pennsylvania is the first stop underscores the state’s importance, they say — and the level of concern about it.


The private meeting, confirmed by a half-dozen party officials, underscores the high stakes for the president in the state. Trump won Pennsylvania by less than 1 percentage point in 2016, and reelection aides view the state’s 20 electoral votes as crucial to his 2020 hopes. Pennsylvania also has symbolic significance: In 2016, Trump geared his campaign toward the state’s large proportion of blue-collar voters, many of whom had traditionally voted Democratic.1

The Trump contingent is expected to include political director Chris Carr, who is orchestrating the campaign’s national field deployment, as well as Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, who are overseeing outreach to delegates and state party organizations. Republican National Committee officials are also expected to attend.

The meeting is the first of what Trump aides say will be a series of visits to battleground states. The fact that Pennsylvania is the first stop underscores the state’s importance, they say — and the level of concern about it.

“The party is not in great shape,” said Rob Gleason, a former Pennsylvania GOP chairman. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that.”

The meeting is expected to focus on field deployment, voter data and coordination between state and national officials.

Among those expected to be on hand are Pennsylvania GOP Chairman Val Digiorgio and RNC member Bob Asher. Ted Christian and David Urban, who helped spearhead Trump’s 2016 campaign in the state, are expected to join, as is former GOP Rep. Lou Barletta, an ally of the president who waged an unsuccessful 2018 Senate bid.

Tim Murtaugh, a Trump 2020 spokesman, declined to comment on the meeting other than to express confidence in the president’s prospects in the state.

“The voters of the commonwealth were there for President Trump in 2016 and will be with him again in 2020,” he said.

(…)

Wednesday’s meeting comes after months of bad news for the Pennsylvania GOP. In March 2018, Republicans lost a special election in a conservative southwestern Pennsylvania congressional district. In November, Republicans lost Senate and gubernatorial races by double digits as well as three House seats, partly because of a redrawn congressional map that favored Democrats.

Democrats also flipped 16 state legislative seats in the midterms.

The bleeding hasn’t stopped since then. In a special election this month, Democrats won a state Senate seat in a district that Trump carried in 2016. Nationally, it was the first such legislative seat that Democrats flipped this year, prompting grumbling among some Republicans that the state party did not invest enough in turning out voters.

A power struggle, meanwhile, has consumed state GOP leadership, with some Republicans complaining that DiGiorgio lacks fundraising skills and has failed to unite the party after a bruising election for state party chief in 2017.

In the 2016 election, Trump became the first Republican to win Pennsylvania in a Presidential election since George H.W. Bush did it in 1988, but he managed to do it with less than a fifty thousand vote margin in a state that Democrats have typically won rather easily. Along with Michigan and Wisconsin, Pennsylvania was one of the three states that Trump won by a combined total of 77,741 votes that ended up putting him over the top in the Electoral College despite his not having a popular vote majority. Without Pennsylvania, Trump still would have won the Presidency. but with a smaller majority (286 to 252) and without the triumvirate of states noted above he would have lost the Electoral College by a narrow 278 to 260 margin.

Given this and the fact that it seems unlikely that Trump will win any of the states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, it is absolutely essential that Trump hold on to all three of these states and just as there have been advances by Democrats in the Keystone State, there have also been gains by Democrats in Michigan and Wisconsin. In both states, for example, Democrats managed to win back the Governor’s Mansion in both states and to pick up seats in the respective state legislatures and state Congressional delegations in all three states. This suggests that, at least for the moment momentum in these three states is on the Democrat’s side.

There has been very little 2020 polling in any of these states and, needless to say, it would be largely worthless if it was conducted at this early date. However, these and other developments make it clear that, unlike some previous Presidents, Donald Trump has almost no room for error in his re-election bid. If he loses even a single one of the states he won in 2016 then his entire re-election bid is in doubt. This is particularly true of states such as Ohio and Florida as well as states that have been trending “purple” such as North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa, and Arizona, all of which could fall into the Democratic column depending on factors such as turnout and the state of the economy. This contrasts greatly with candidates such as Barack Obama in 2016, Bill Clinton in 1996, and, of course, Ronald Reagan in 1984, all three of whom could have afforded to lose a state or two and still safely get re-elected. In Trump’s case, notwithstanding the historic bias that suggests he will win re-election, there is almost no margin for error. In that case, Republicans and Trump advisers are right to be worried about Pennsylvania and that isn’t the only state they should be worried about.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Politicians, US Politics, , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Although promises by Trump mean little to his devotees–hey! he’s owning the libs, and that’s what counts!–didn’t Trump promise to revive the steel industry in PA? Why, yes, he did, back in 2016. And did he? I’m sure some of those still-unemployed workers who voted for Trump on the basis of this promise will notice.

  2. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “I’m sure some of those still-unemployed workers who voted for Trump on the basis of this promise will notice.”

    I’m not sure that I would count on that, considering that the Democrats have been working night and day to make sure that the US steel industry stays crippled–or so the story will go.

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  3. Kathy says:

    [..]Donald Trump has almost no room for error in his re-election bid. If he loses even a single one of the states he won in 2016 then his entire re-election bid is in doubt.

    Poor Cheeto. I feel so badly about him, it’s all I can do not to burst out in great, loud, peals of convulsive laughter.

    This is why we can’t take precedent too seriously in making electoral calculations, and this includes impeachment.

  4. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Possibly. But if those voters were Democrats who broke ranks to vote for Trump in 2016–maybe not.

  5. SenyorDave says:

    I don’t think that PA is a state that Trump’s people felt they would win in 2020. Of the three shockers (PA, MI, and WI) that he won in 2016, I think WI would be the one I would worry about from a Dem standpoint. Walker left a legacy of voter suppression, and I’m assuming that the current Supreme Court would allow poll taxes if it some state tried it.

  6. Tim D. says:

    Granted its early, and granted its just one poll, so big grain of salt. But these state-level trackers from Morning Consult are interesting to see trends over time.

    https://morningconsult.com/tracking-trump/

    “Since Trump took office, his net approval in Pennsylvania has decreased by 17 percentage points.” Going from +10 to -7. It would be nicer to compare to election day, not inauguration…

  7. Teve says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I’m assuming that the current Supreme Court would allow poll taxes if it some state tried it.

    writing in early 2020, Justice Kavanaugh will explain that it can’t be an unconstitutional poll tax, since it’s automatically waived for anyone with a valid Medicare card.

  8. Andrew says:

    I am in Pennsylvania. I live in a small borough that is historically Republican. There has been a leftward movement here. Fewer and fewer Trump signs, flags, stickers. This is a blue collar, non-union town, too.
    Most here disliked Hilary more than Trump, but a good portion of those actually bought the lie. And since tax season started, it has not been pretty.

    Granted, we are talking about a President that does not care that an unfriendly foreign country attacked the United States. Once could argue the worst since 9/11. And crickets from the GOP about this lackadaisical attitude, because it helped the GOP gain power and raid the coffers. Treason is now part of the GOP platform, and we are still talking about the political consequences of holding Trump accountable for his actions. Kushner is selling state secrets to The Saudi’s, the country that gave us the terrorists on 9/11. And Trump is secretly talking with Putin, the leader of our greatest foe in our history.
    But! Trump went on a Twitter storm last night about FoxNews!!!!

    We really do not deserve this republic any longer.

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  9. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @SenyorDave:

    I don’t think that PA is a state that Trump’s people felt they would win in 2020.

    If Dems win MI and PA they just have to win a single state. It might be Wyoming or Idaho. The Blue Wall is right there, even without WI.

  10. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    It might be Wyoming or Idaho.

    I truly doubt this scenario. Yes, Idaho’s metro areas have been growing in population, but I don’t believe they are close to ‘purple’ status yet. (Happy to be wrong, though!)

    North Carolina, Arizona, Florida, Ohio, and Georgia are much more likely candidates to flip to blue (along with the three ‘blue wall’ states that flipped red last time around.)

  11. Tyrell says:

    Pennsylvania can be full of surprises, and a virtual mine field. Ask General George Pickett.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    @Tyrell: There were no mines for Pickett’s charge, but a lot of his people did get shot held up by a fence. Not a picket fence, though.

    (Sorry. No willpower. Never had any.)

  13. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    @Neil J Hudelson: I was saying that Democrats would only need to win a single state, even a extremely small one, if they win MI and PA. I don’t think that winning Wyoming is realistic.

    But i also think that the blue wall is still there.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    @gVOR08:

    “There were no mines for Pickett’s charge…”

    And certainly not virtual mines, as computers weren’t invented yet.

    “(Sorry. No willpower. Never had any.)”

    Resistance is futile. Especially if it is less than 1 ohm.

  15. Kylopod says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    I was saying that Democrats would only need to win a single state, even a extremely small one, if they win MI and PA.

    They wouldn’t even need to win a state. Winning ME-2 and NE-2 would do it, giving them a 270-268 EV win.

  16. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @Andre Kenji de Sousa:

    Gotcha. Sorry for the misunderstanding.