Hours after the polls closed, the nation still didn’t know who Pennsylvania’s senator was, as Pat Toomey and Congressman Joe Sestak were in a dead heat.
Finally victorious, Toomey thanked his supporters, but he should have also thanked those most responsible for his success: Philadelphia Democrats.
It was the light turnout in the city that killed Sestak’s candidacy. Based on the 77,000 vote statewide margin — out of 3.9 million — if just a fraction more Philadelphians voted, Sestak’s election would have been a lay-up.
Ironically, the one-party town of Philadelphia, with virtually no competitive races, led to the demise of the Democratic Senate seat. In fact, the only close race involved Republican state Rep. John Perzel, saddled with an 82-count indictment. He lost.
There’s a lesson to be learned for all Republicans: Make inroads in major cities, or suffer the consequences. The Democratic vote always jumps in presidential election years, as it will in 2016 — when Toomey and newly elected senators face the voters again.
Pennsylvania was arguably the epicenter of electoral activity.
Tom Corbett became governor by trouncing Rendell-protégé Dan Onorato, Arlen Specter’s seat was flipped by Toomey’s win, and five congressional seats switched hands.
The state Senate — up until Election Day the ONLY elected Republican body from the mid-Atlantic north and east of Ohio — is now joined by the state house with a 20-seat GOP majority.
Is the Keystone State red again, like in 1994, when Republicans controlled the governorship, both U.S. Senate seats, all row offices, and had majorities in the state House, Senate and congressional delegations?
Not so fast.
Things didn’t work out back then because too many Republicans chose power for the sake of power, abandoning the platform on which they were elected. Likewise, if the current GOP winners don’t follow through on their campaign promises, they do so at their own peril.
The GOP would be wise to understand that the election was NOT a mandate for Republicans, but a shot across the bow of both parties. Voters are demanding their elected officials focus on what the people want, not what some leaders think they need.
Take the healthcare bill. While the need for reforming healthcare is universally recognized, it did not top most people’s lists. After Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts, the message was clear: jobs, jobs, jobs.
Despite that, national healthcare was given priority. Pelosi and Reid got the job done, but with severe consequences. Republicans should heed that lesson.
The Catholic vote is a prime example. Just two years ago, Obama (despite his avidly pro-abortion stance) won Catholics 54-44, but this time they voted for the GOP in droves.
Where do the parties agree? For starters, offshore drilling, nuclear power, certain tax cuts, and more teacher accountability. The president pushed these items, but the current congressional Republicans made no attempt to cooperate.
So will the incoming GOP give serious effort to getting America back on track, knowing that any achievements will help Obama’s re-election, or will they play partisan politics, turning every word the president utters into a campaign sound bite?
The latter choice is more enticing, since it’s far easier to play politics inside the Beltway than make tough decisions, but it’s a slippery slope.
Either way, the GOP stands to make gains in 2012, since it is defending nine
Senate seats to the Democrats’ 22.
But what then?
Obama will most likely be re-elected, made possible, ironically, by Republican gains. It is very difficult to defeat an incumbent president, accomplished just four times over the last 150 years.
So will the parties will work together, like Bill Clinton and the GOP did, or will they stand opposed to gain miniscule partisan advantage?
If the choice is business as usual — if it’s divisive politics at its worst — then it won’t matter which party rules Washington, because the lights will already have gone out.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com. He can be reached at CF@FreindlyFireZone.com
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