News & Politics

Are All Politics Really Local?

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

Salena Zito reports from the front lines of the recent special House election in Pennsylvania:

One of the biggest advantages Conor Lamb had in his victory last week in the special election for Western Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District was that his campaign manager lived in his district.

Abby Nassif Murphy did not have an office at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee; she did not hold daily meetings with fellow Democrats in the Beltway who, on average, are fairly progressive both culturally and politically. She understood the heartbeat of the district not because of polls and data, but because she spends the bulk of her time carting her sons to and from their activities.

Untethered from the pressures of Washington consultants, agenda items, and resistance talking points, she was able to respond to what she saw the community wanted. This was no cookie-cutter operation. The ads were fresh, the message was safe, and there was no evidence of any Beltway residue on anything they did.

So, um, how did the krack kadres of GOP kampaign konsultants do with the colorless Rick Saccone? Not so great:

It was the exact opposite of what the Republicans did. Republican nominee Rick Saccone’s ads were flat, seeming leftovers from the Obama era. The message was negative, committing the cardinal sin of not giving voters a reason to show up for either the candidate or the brand.

Last December, Brad Todd, co-author of our upcoming book, “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics,” wrote for The Federalist that the only thing that will keep the Republican Party a healthy party was to get it the hell out of D.C. and set up headquarters somewhere in Ohio so that they knew what their voters really wanted — not what they want them to want. Three months later, his warnings to his party came to fruition. They lost, in part, because they didn’t understand who their voters are: a coalition of populists that exists outside of the six counties that surround the Beltway.

He’s right. I live here in the 18th Congressional District; when I visit D.C., I am always proud of the history and stature of its purpose. But once I pass Hagerstown, Md., on I-70, I know there is a difference in attitudes towards culture, religion, education, and politics between Western Pennsylvania and the Beltway region.

Amazing how… what’s the word… resistant the GOP establishment is to learning the lessons of the 2016.