• Why Congressman Lou Barletta’s Senate Bid Can Work

    Written by: Derek Wagner, PAFCR Communications Team | @wagski7

    Congressman Lou Barletta has won the Republican nomination to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate. However, Barletta faces a difficult opponent in Senator Bob Casey, an incumbent with a track record of neither controversy or efficiency, but rather lukewarm invisibility. Putting Barletta in the Senate will be challenging, but a victory will both oust a malignant obstructionist and insert a powerful advocate for the Republican values and policies.

    There are very few reasons for voters to keep Casey in Congress and plenty of reasons for Republicans to want him replaced. A consistent party-line Democrat, Casey’s only function has been to quietly #Resist against Republican proposals and nominations, and cosponsor all of his Democrat compatriots’ bills. Casey’s lack of substantive work has garnered him a pitiful reputation as one of Congress’s least effective legislators, with only two percent of sponsored bills passing. Given that he has voted with progressive pariah Elizabeth Warren 93 percent of the time, Casey’s voting habits are clearly out of sync with the desires of most Pennsylvanian citizens, who recently helped give Donald Trump the presidential mandate.

    Unfortunately, despite his flaws, Casey is not an exceptionally unpopular candidate. According to data from Morning Consult, Casey had a 43 percent approval rating in the last quarter of 2017 — not a great mark, but not one of the lowest in the country. Casey’s middling ratings show that his reputation for party-line voting and mediocre legislating has killed enthusiasm for him but have not raised particular rancor. Casey lost nine percentage points on his approval rating over the course of 2017, displaying serious jadedness among his constituency, but his approval rating is still above his disapproval rating, meaning that the statistically illiterate political media will peg Barletta as an underdog.

    In the face of the statistical disparities, Barletta cannot lean too heavily on the national party apparatus, though he can expect strong support from the PA GOP. According to RealClearPolitics, there are eight “toss-up” Senate races this November; given a large number of safe seats currently held by Republicans, the GOP need only win a handful of these seats to retain their Senate majority. The generic ballot, while still showing a 4-point Democratic lead in the most recent RCP average, has been trending very positively for Republicans, incentivizing national party leaders to spend aggressively on the newly closer races. While the speculative “blue wave” is quite dubious, and the GOP has plenty of cash to pour into multiple races, Barletta must not rely on being prioritized by the national party should other races command national media attention.

    The biggest advantage that Barletta has is his association with President Trump. An ardent supporter of Trump, Barletta rode to victory in the primary election with the help of Northeastern and Central PA Trump supporters (including a particularly energized Luzerne County, in which Barletta pulled 94 percent of the vote). With the economy thriving and Korean peace talks bearing fruit, Barletta is poised to gain a boost thanks to the President. Barletta also benefits from being a generally agreeable candidate, which will improve voter perception of both Barletta and Trump.

    None of this means that Barletta cannot win the general election in November, but it does mean that Barletta’s best chance at victory will come through strong grassroots activism and energized volunteers. Barletta can find the voters to beat Casey, but if he is to achieve the turnout required to beat an incumbent whose party has the national edge at the moment, Barletta must get those voters out to the polls, especially in Western PA. Nearly 26,000 voters cast ballots for Barletta’s opponent, Jim Christiana, in Allegheny County alone, mostly due to Christiana’s Western PA background. There is a goldmine of Republican voters out west, and if Barletta can engage with them successfully, he will unearth the votes he needs to make the otherwise one-sided election into a dogfight.

    Flipping Casey’s Senate seat is going to require dedicated efforts on the ground despite potential funding issues. Therefore, one of the best tools in the PA GOP’s arsenal is the College Republicans. Located on campuses across the Commonwealth, CR chapters have the potential to boost the Barletta campaign and make a real impact on our nation’s politics. If Pennsylvania’s Republican students rise to the challenge and campaign effectively for Lou Barletta, we can be the deciding factor in one of the most impressive upsets in recent American politics.