Welcome to the center of the political universe

National media highlights major role of Chester County in presidential race

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

timespoliticsunusualWell, we told you so.

For most of the summer in this space, we’ve told you that Chester County figures to be ground zero in the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump — and now multiple stories from outside the region, in USA Today, The New York Times and The Harrisburg Patriot-Ledger have featured editorial takes on “the swing county in the swing state.”

Well, duh.

As we’ve noted: Trump cannot win the White House without winning Pennsylvania. Trump cannot win Pennsylvania without winning Chester County. Both campaigns know this — so expect to be blitzed throughout the month of October with surrogates and — maybe — both candidates, all looking to persuade college-educated voters (mostly Republicans) to vote for their respective candidates.

Other things to expect: lots of phone calls, door knock and mailings (and e-mailings) from your local parties and campaigns. Something to look at: which side is better at running their ground game. While the Clinton campaign has built a full structure, similar to what Barack Obama built in 2008 and 2012, Trump is largely depending on the local party structure for persuasion and get out the vote.

On the surface, that may not be as big a mismatch as you might think, however. While the Democratic Party in the county — which, granted, making strides forward in the last couple of years — lacks the ability to run local messaging and GOTV for a presidential campaign, the same cannot be said for Chester County Republicans. The county GOP basically carried Mitt Romney to a squeaker of win in 2012 and should be well positioned to crank up the local vote for Trump.

And honestly, were the GOP candidate someone along the lines of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Gov. Jeb Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio, it seems certain that Chester County would be a slam dunk for Republicans.

Trump, though, continues to leave a lot of local Republicans “uncomfortable” and unsure about supporting him. This week’s poor performance at the first presidential debate and in the days following probably didn’t do much to reassure shaky Republicans and sympathetic independents.

While the ground game will be there — and this is the $1 million question that campaigns down ballot are trying to divine — will Trump continue his recent downward spiral, fueled in part by going off script, in part by new daily headlines about his past (which are hardly a shock to anyone who worked in New York City area media a couple of decades ago, as I did). Equally likely, though, is another Clinton meltdown — anything from WikiLeaks to further email revelations — that could suppress vote on Nov. 8.

Suffice it to say there probably hasn’t been a campaign with two candidates disliked by so many in recent history, so predicting the outcome is a fools’ errand at this moment.


We’ve previously mentioned “red mist” — that overly intense state that campaigns and candidates get into in the final weeks of the campaign. And like the cold/sinus infection whathaveyou that seems to be plaguing Chester County at the moment, it’s clear we’re seeing outbreaks of Red Mist.

Case in point: Jack London’s campaign for state Senate against Democrat Andy Dinniman. Friday, the campaign issued a breathless release condemning Dinniman for claiming that he had voted for pension reform in a published report:

London noted that Dinniman has been duplicitous on pension reform.  “Senator Dinniman repeatedly votes against pension reform in Harrisburg, yet portrays himself as a reformer on the issue back home,” London said.  “This is more double-talk from a career politician.  It’s exactly why people are disenchanted with government.  Worse, he’s hurting our state by consistently blocking meaningful reform,” he added.

As it turns out, London correctly noted Dinniman did vote “no” on SB 1 and SB 1071 —  a pair of pension reform bills that swirled around as both houses of the state legislature tried to package a budget deal (the GOP required a pension reform bill to sign off on a budget). What London seems to have missed: Dinniman voted “yes” on SB 1082, which was another of the pension reform bills that moved in the weeks before Christmas, 2015.

So, Dinniman’s claim to have supported — broadly — pension reform holds up to fact checking. One, of course, can argue the merits and differences of the bills (all of which were, to be blunt, window dressing in terms of dealing with the current pension issue — none did anything to ease the current burden on school districts or the state budget), but Dinniman’s version of the facts clearly has more merit than London’s in this case.


Like the emergence of red mist, this is the season for local election commercials. While the broadcast airwaves are filled with seemingly alternating bombastic Katie McGinty/Pat Toomey ads (not to mention Trump/Clinton ads), local cable (for those of us with Comcast/Verizon FIOS) is starting to see ads from other candidates.

Good spots from Harry Lewis, Jr. (R) and Carolyn Comitta (D) — positive, introduction-style spots where both talk about what they stand for and who they are and well capture them as people. Nothing ground breaking, but no negatives, no attacks and just good name ID spots. Both are well-produced.

Less well produced is a spot from U.S. Rep. Ryan Costello (R-6). Like the above two spots, it’s a positive spot and checks all of the boxes.

Being a congressional race with a higher budget and knowing the candidate very well (and that it portrays him poorly in comparison to how he plays in real life), my issues are two-fold (and yes, I am nit picking): Ryan’s suit in the spot is terrible. As in from the Herman Munster collection. Also, his movements in the spot are robotic and odd — not his real life norm. Whatever high-priced director created this spot owes Ryan and/or the Republican National Campaign Committee a refund.

This isn’t on Ryan — he’s a lawyer and an elected official, not an image consultant or TV pro — but if this were a closer race (Costello seems primed to have one of the few blowouts in the county for a GOP candidate), it might matter.

   Send article as PDF   

Share this post:

Related Posts

Leave a Comment