GOP panic is brewing in Pa.
By John L. Micek
Sometimes, even when you win, you lose.
Just ask U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa.
Instead of basking in the reflected glow of his primary victory last week, the newly minted GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in a key, battleground state, found himself the victim of some high-level shade instead.
Speaking to The Washington Post recently, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., notably left Barletta’s general election match-up against Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey off his list of races that he said could determine control of the Senate in 2019.
Republicans are defending a 51-49 majority heading into a tight mid-term cycle.So Republicans are understandably jumpy and taking nothing for granted.
And Barletta’s troubles are a microcosm of the troubles Republicans face in states that went for President Donald Trump in 2016.
In truth, Barletta should probably have romped to victory over Jim Christiana, a state House member from Beaver County, outside Pittsburgh. Christiana had almost no money and even less name recognition, while Barletta has been a fixture of state-level politics for years.
Barletta’s “lackadaisical and disorganized” 27-percentage point win over Christiana earned him a scathing story in The Washington Examiner that claimed that Pennsylvania Republicans were “hitting the panic button” over Barletta’s candidacy.
“The sense is, nobody knows what the ---- he’s doing,” a Republican strategist with Pennsylvania ties told the newspaper. The same strategist added that “Casey should be vulnerable, but Lou is just like a ghost.”
“Republicans and Democrats acknowledge that Casey is one of the least vulnerable Democratic senators running in states Trump carried in 2016,” Roll Call’s Simone Pathe and Bridget Bowman wrote. “Casey has broken fundraising records with more than $10 million on hand – the most of any Senate candidate in the state’s history according to Casey’s campaign. Barletta had $1.3 million on hand at the end of this year’s first quarter.”
WEAK AT FUNDRAISING
Barletta’s comparable weakness as a fundraiser seems to be the focus of GOP concerns about his viability as a candidate.
And his campaign bristled at any suggestion that Barletta was giving the race anything but his best effort.
And nowhere in America is the president more engaged in helping the Republican candidate win than he is with helping Barletta.
Indeed, Trump recorded an epic, two-minute robo-call on Barletta’s behalf that blew up the phones of Republican primary voters.
In the ultimate Trumpian honor, the president declared Barletta “a very special guy, adding that, “Lou Barletta was one of the very first people to get behind me in Pennsylvania. He was with me early on – before everyone else started jumping on board. It took courage for Lou to do that and I’ll never forget it.”
Nonetheless, it’s a long time until November – and in the current climate, anything that can change will. But it remains to be seen whether Barletta will heed the early warnings, particularly when it comes to as tenacious a campaigner as Casey.