Larry Ceisler on Politics
Q: The most recent polls show Joe Biden ahead by five to seven points in Pennsylvania. You’ve said before that Donald Trump outperforms the polls. So is this currently a safe lead for Biden?
Larry Ceisler: Well, in the past, Trump has outperformed his polling, but I’m not sure if that will be true to the same degree this year. Here’s why: First, I think the people who are for Trump have embraced him – they’re enthusiastic and don’t mind telling that to pollsters. And second, I think there are independents and Republicans who won’t vote for Trump but don’t want to say that. They don’t want to tell anyone they’re voting for Biden. So there may actually be a hidden Biden vote this time.
Q: Sticking with those polls, there are currently far fewer undecided voters than there were at this time four years ago. Given that, can anything still flip the narrative before Nov. 3?
Larry Ceisler: Sure. We’ve seen in recent weeks how the narrative can change every day. There’s still another debate on the schedule. Yes, there aren’t many undecideds right now, but the few that remain can certainly be swayed by events.
Q: In the past week, two lawsuits in Pennsylvania centering on voting rules went against the Trump campaign. What’s the impact?
Larry Ceisler: I think it will make it more seamless for people to vote. I never understood the rationale, especially during a pandemic, of making it more difficult for people. One of the suits called for limiting the use of drop boxes. Look, as long as the drop boxes are monitored – and they seem to be – it takes pressure off the postal service.
Another issue was calling for out-of-county residents to serve as poll watchers. Well, we know that has the potential, based on what we’ve seen, for voter intimidation. The fact is there are enough Republicans in Philadelphia to serve as poll watchers. People forget that although Philadelphia is overwhelmingly Democratic, the county still has one of the largest numbers of registered Republicans in the state.
Q: I’m seeing constant ads and promotions to get people to feel comfortable voting by mail or voting early. Are you confident those campaigns are working?
Larry Ceisler: We’ve worked since early on with VoteSafe PA to provide voter education regarding mail-in balloting. For a few months, we were a lonely voice. But now the cavalry is coming in. I think it’s very helpful seeing those spots on TV, or digitally, or hearing them on the radio. I think they’re effective. People really want to vote in this election. They are determined to vote and they want to make sure their vote counts.
Q: Sen. Pat Toomey announced recently that he’s not going to run for re-election in 2022, or run for governor. How surprising was that?
Larry Ceisler: Well, people weren’t sure what he was going to do. The thought was that if the Democrats gain control of the Senate, that might guide his decision. Or if Trump gets re-elected, the 2022 mid-term could be difficult for the GOP. I thought he might be leaning toward a run for governor – but obviously, he decided to do neither. Why? I have no clue. He said he wanted to spend more time with his family and make money.
Q: How does that affect the political landscape in the state? Let’s start with Republicans.
Larry Ceisler: Every Republican and his mother will look at it. This opens up a lot of lanes and there are likely to be multi-candidate races for both seats.
I could see Paul Mango, who tried for governor in 2018, giving it a run. Other names you could see are Jeff Bartos, who was the GOP lieutenant governor nominee in 2018; Dan Meuser, a congressman from northeast Pennsylvania; Camera Bartolotta, a state senator from Western PA; Bill McSwain, the US Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania. Maybe Jim Cawley, who was lieutenant governor under Corbett.
And that’s just to start. You’ll get some Republican members of the state house and senate, and some business people. The funny thing is, you’ll have so many people running for governor or senator, but half of them will be willing to go for lieutenant governor because it presents a chance to run for statewide office.
Q: What about on the Democratic side? Does Toomey’s decision change things?
Larry Ceisler: No, it doesn’t change anything. (Attorney General) Josh Shapiro will run for governor if he’s re-elected next month. Jim Kenney has said he’s interested in being governor. Joe Torsella, if he’s re-elected as treasurer, will probably run for the Senate. My guess is the (Lt. Gov.) John Fetterman is leaning toward a Senate run.
And there are other possibilities. I think Val Arkoosh, the Montgomery County Commission chairwoman, will run for Senate. And I could see (US Rep.) Chrissy Houlahan running for Senate, or Philadelphia Councilmember Helen Gym. (U.S. Reps.) Conor Lamb or Brendan Boyle might take a shot. And Allegheny County Executive Rick Fitzgerald might decide to run statewide.
When there’s an open seat – or two – a lot of people get interested. It’s very rare to get an open lane.
Q: Do you see any potential surprises in Pennsylvania’s congressional races or the state legislature?
Larry Ceisler: The only one, really, would be the Bucks County congressional race. If there’s a Biden landslide, that could make it difficult for Brian Fitzpatrick to win re-election. The state house still leans Republican, but every poll that comes out showing Biden up another point makes it that much tougher for down-ballot Republicans. It depends where those votes are coming from – Southeast Pennsylvania for the most part – but we could wake up on Nov. 4 and find Democrats sweeping that part of the state.
Larry Ceisler is the founder and Principal of Ceisler Media and Issue Advocacy.