When Will They Admit They Have a Problem?
By Jim Christiana
Another election cycle and another round of losses for the Grand Old Party in Pennsylvania. The loss column now includes both US Senate seats, the Governorship, the Attorney General’s office, the minority in the State House of Representatives, and a 5-2 minority on the State Supreme Court.
To make matters worse, the state GOP isn’t even pretending to be upset about it. It seems that the Republican Party of Pennsylvania has come to terms with the reality that they are addicted to losing.
The outcome of Pennsylvania elections are not determined by party loyalists, because most elections are determined by the objective voters who are not blindly loyal to a political party. These voters swing back and forth to support candidates from both parties (hence the name swing voters). So, why has the Pennsylvania political pendulum appear to be stuck on the left?
In terms of dictating the outcome of an election and appealing to swing voters, yes, specific policies do matter, but more importantly, how a campaign packages and messages those policies matter more. Likewise, a candidate’s experience matters in a campaign, but their photography, commercials, website, and overall branding matter more. Simply put, marketing matters!
However, when it comes to executing political marketing campaigns, the PA Republican Party doesn’t hire marketing firms; they hire political consultants. Those two labels are not interchangeable.
Marketing firms are hired by companies to market and promote their brand, products, and services. On the other hand, political consultants don’t know a thing about effective marketing and aren’t hired to market brands or products, rather their business is exclusively made up of political work. (That should tell you something about their work product). This is why they — the consultants — have utterly failed at capturing the voters who determine the outcome of elections.
If these Republican consultants are worse at winning elections than meteorologists are at predicting the weather, then why do they keep getting the work? Because maintaining control of the political work is more important to them than winning.
Historically, the most important job of party leaders was to recruit the “best candidate” which used to be defined as the candidate who gives the party the best chance of winning. After that, came the responsibilities to raise the money needed to market the candidate, then select the agency to execute the marketing strategy.
Recently however, political consultants discovered that, if they recruited candidates that were independently wealthy, then they were guaranteed to get the expensive campaign work.
Consequently, we have seen an influx of old-rich-white men running for office under the Republican banner, backed by political consultants running the same garbage ads, reused grainy mailers, and recycled tired narratives. And guess what happens? We get another old-rich-white guy, who is perceived as being completely out of touch with “swing voters,” lose again while the consultants make a bag, we get the “awe shucks, we’re going to keep fighting for change” mumbo jumbo for a minute, then it’s rinse and repeat!
So why doesn’t the party step in?
Because the political consultants have effectively taken control of the highest ranks of the Republican Party, both statewide and locally. Taking a similar approach to political candidates, consultants have recruited and advanced party bosses who are addicted to their personal political ambitions or a desire for a sense of importance.
Ultimately, the political consulting class now controls the Republican candidates, the party bosses (“the establishment”), the “marketing” campaigns, and the never-ending loss column. Adding those variables together for the Democratic Party, they have a perfect formula that even allows U.S. Senator John Fetterman and County Executive-Elect Sara Innamorato to squeak by with wins and Governor Josh Shapiro and U.S. Senator Bob Casey to win overwhelmingly.