Larry Ceisler on Politics
What issues will Josh Shapiro highlight in his race for governor? How important is Trump’s endorsement to PA Republicans? What’s worth watching in the impending off-year elections? Our Founder breaks it down.
Q: What are Shapiro’s strengths as a statewide candidate?
LC: His strength is his record as public official, in every office he’s held. Second, he articulates a vision as well as any elected official I have ever witnessed in all my time in the political realm. He’s a once-in-a-generation candidate.
Q: What are the key issues you expect his campaign to run on? Do you expect it to include the Jan. 6 insurrection or the GOP attempts to overturn the 2020 election?
LC: We’re still many months out. But basically, he gets to run on his record and on being an elected official who is proactive rather than reactive. Shapiro has been out front in taking on the antidemocratic forces in the state and country. As AG he has taken on a lot of crucial issues – everything from opioids to climate change to scandals in the Catholic Church.
Q: Let’s look at the Republican side of the governor’s race. Six months out from the primary, does anyone have an advantage in that field?
LC: The person with the advantage there will be the person who gets Trump’s endorsement if he chooses to give one. It’s as simple as that. And right now, most of them are running to be the Trumpiest of all. Well, maybe not [State Sen.] Dan Laughlin. If [Senate President Pro Tempore] Jake Corman jumps in, he’ll be able to raise a lot of money and get political support – but maybe not the grassroots support of (former U.S. Rep.) Lou Barletta or [State Sen.] Doug Mastriano.
Q: Can a moderate Republican win in this state these days?
LC: It won’t be a moderate Republican, but it could be a traditional conservative Republican who would not tie himself to the Trump baggage. One who would say, "Yeah, Biden won. There was no steal."
Q: There is an off-year election coming in a couple of weeks. Anything you’re looking at there?
LC: The upcoming statewide races for three courts are very important to the future and will also be somewhat of an indicator to the way the state is leaning — something of a referendum on Biden, Wolf and Trump. People have to remember there is an election involving a lot of countywide offices, municipal races and school board seats. These are very important elections, so we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves.
These races are also an indicator of how people may vote in 2022. Look, none of the judicial candidates have enough money to promote themselves, so it’s about party preference, enthusiasm and turnout. Republicans always used to win all these off-year statewide elections until 2015, when they started to lose them. This time they’re making a real effort to win because everyone is starting to realize how important the courts are. Republicans always knew that; Democrats didn’t.
So this is an interesting and important election. Republicans historically turn out more for off-year elections. But will the Trump base come out? Or do they only turn out for Donald Trump? We’ll find out.”
Q: With Pat Toomey retiring, the race for that U.S. Senate seat — and possibly control of the Senate — is going to draw massive attention and money. How do you assess what’s going on there, starting with the Democrats?
LC: Right now, it’s all about raising money. [Lieutenant Gov.] John Fetterman has higher name recognition, but that could change in the next several months as [Montgomery County Commissioner] Val Arkoosh and [U.S. Rep.] Conor Lamb get better known around state, or as [State Rep.] Malcolm Kenyatta chips away at Fetterman’s liberal credentials. But really, it’s just about raising money now.
Q: Is it the same on the Republican side?
LC: Well, there it’s about the protection from abuse orders filed against Sean Parnell (by his wife) – and whether Trump’s endorsement can help Parnell overcome attacks from Jeff Bartos about those orders. As distasteful as some find it, Parnell should have been prepared for this because he knew it was out there. And he wasn’t prepared because there was no response. Maybe he feels he doesn’t need to respond. But you can’t say, "Don’t pick on my family." If you don’t want your family in it, don’t run.
I buy into Bartos’s argument that it’s going to be tougher for Parnell to win a statewide election. Parnell is hoping the Trump support is enough. But unless he comes up with an answer for those protection from abuse orders, independents who might consider voting for the Republican candidate won’t like that aspect of him.
Larry Ceisler is the Founder of Ceisler Media