Blue Wave Carries Casey, Cartwright And Wolf

November 7, 2018 GMT

The Democratic blue wave that engulfed Pennsylvania on Tuesday boosted Gov. Tom Wolf to a second term, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey to a third term, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright to a fourth term and pinned loss No. 1 in the Keystone State on President Donald Trump.

Amid a huge voter turnout, Casey, Wolf and Cartwright convincingly defeated their Republican opponents and sent a clear message that the wave Trump rode to victory in 2016 would not be repeated, despite a soaring economy that clearly favored Trump and his Republican Party.

“I guess it’s not always just the economy, stupid,” Cartwright said. “A lot of people really dislike the president’s style. They don’t like his excessive use of Twitter, they find his deportment unpresidential. So many of these people who say that to me, they want him to succeed and they think those things are holding him back.”

As an added reminder to Trump that memories of things he says can linger in the minds of the insulted, southeastern Pennsylvania voters elected four women to Congress. That was expected because they ran in districts Democrat Hillary Clinton won in 2016, but the president’s election encouraged them to run.

With dozens of women also on the ballot in state legislative races alone, Casey called women’s involvement in state politics “the biggest story this year,” though it was unclear how many will ultimately win state House or Senate seats.

“I think we’ll see women elected years from now, and I think the antecedent of that will be what happened this year,” he said.

The voting also bore out pre-election Franklin & Marshall College polls that showed voters happy with the state’s direction — 51 percent in late October — and unhappy with the country’s direction — only 35 percent.

More than half of voters said Wolf is doing a good or excellent job. While only 43 percent said that of Casey, only a quarter said he’s doing a poor job and almost half still have an at least somewhat favorable view of him.

Compare that to Trump, who more than half of voters have a strongly unfavorable opinion of and rate him as doing a poor job.

Most of the candidates Trump or Vice President Mike Pence touted in Northeast Pennsylvania visits lost — Republican governor candidate Scott Wagner, Republican Senate candidate Lou Barletta and Cartwright’s Republican opponent, John Chrin. Trump, in his visit, also praised two other Republicans, Rep. Tom Marino, who won re-election in the 12th Congressional District, and Dan Meuser, who won the 9th district. Of course, they ran in overwhelmingly Republican districts and neither Trump, nor Pence came here specifically for them. In the Senate and governor races, Casey and Wolf also spent significantly more than their opponents, which helped a lot, but the election showed Trump’s coattails have limits.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt that the question gets raised whether Pennsylvania is a Trump state any more as a result of this midterm,” said G. Terry Madonna, the longtime state political analyst and director of the Franklin & Marshall College poll.

Casey said the vote also reflected a desire for change away from “one-party rule in Washington” with the House headed for Democratic control.

He thinks concerns about Republican plans to strip away health care coverage and pre-existing conditions protections under the Affordable Care Act also played a significant role. Health insurance tied for first among issues most important to voters in the Senate race (tied with voting for political views and platforms someone agrees with), according to the F&M poll.

“There was concern about his rhetoric but also about the policy agenda,” Casey said. “Sometimes, there’s so much focus on what he says and does, as opposed to the policy that’s marching forward.”

For the first time, Cartwright will sit with a Democratic majority. He has already asked fellow Democrats to elect co-chairman of the three-member policy and communications committee that shapes party policy messaging.

“I’ve always had a keen interest in messaging ever since I did courtroom jury work,” said Cartwright, a former trial lawyer. “If I win this election, I will have won four times in a Trump area, and so I have something to offer.”

If elected to that post, he will probably give up his seat on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, he said, even though that could carry a potentially higher profile if Democrats follow through on investigating various aspects of the Trump administration.

Cartwright promised an immediate Democratic emphasis on developing a real $1 trillion plan to upgrade the nation’s roads, bridges, airports, ports and other infrastructure and a push to shift some of the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy to the middle class.

Casey will remain in the Senate minority, but a senator in his third term will have more influence at least among his Democratic colleagues. He said he expects to focus on the issues he cares about — raising wages, education and child and health care and keep his existing Senate committee assignments — Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Aging, Finance and Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. He may focus more on foreign policy.

Perhaps because he won by such a large margin — almost 15 percentage points at press time — someone might suggest he run for president in 2020. He deflected the question Wednesday.

“I’m only going toward Wednesday morning. It’s been a long campaign,” he said.

For the current president, the campaign just past probably seems a lot longer.

Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9147; @BorysBlogTT on Twitter.