The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania supplied a model for the rest of the nation on Tuesday, when a rebellion of state conservatives threw out a dozen deserving long-term GOP incumbents (including my own State Senator back home).
The Wall Street Journal gloats:
It is an understatement to say Pennsylvania conservatives were in a nasty mood. Despite the fact that conservative challengers were outspent on average 8 to 1 in these races, the two top senate leaders were thrown out and 13 incumbent House members bit the dust. (A few of the races are still too close to call.) The two senate leaders had been institutions of power in Harrisburg, with 56 years of incumbency between them. But so displeased were the GOP primary voters that they both could only muster slightly more than one-third of the vote. Senate majority leader Chip Brightbill got knocked out by a tire salesman dubbed “Citizen Mike” Folmer.
In a Mt. Lebanon race, 21-year-old-college student Mark Harris delivered a stunning defeat to long-time big-government incumbent Tom Stevenson. Mr. Stevenson tried to save his job by attacking Mr. Harris as too young and inexperienced to hold office, but Mr. Harris responded by sending the incumbent a copy of “Economics for Dummies.” That tactic evidently sealed Mr. Stevenson’s fate. (We can think of many Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle who would benefit from that book.)
“All the incumbent Republicans who lost were complicit in the advancement of [Democratic Governor] Ed Rendell’s borrow, tax and spend agenda” notes Matt Brouillette, the president of the conservative Commonwealth Foundation. Over the past three years the GOP majorities in the House and Senate have expanded the budget by twice the inflation rate and rubber-stamped an unpopular Rendell income tax hike. The final straw for voters in this economically struggling industrial state (it ranks 49th in job creation over the past 20 years) was that, in an act of remarkable arrogance, the Republicans violated the state constitution against a midterm pay raise by voting at 2 a.m. to hike their own salaries as much as 50%. It’s clear now Pennsylvanians don’t think these raises were for a job well done.
“We have had a dramatic earthquake in Pennsylvania,” conceded a dazed and now deposed Senate President Bob Jubilirer. We hope the tremors are felt by Republicans in Congress and in state capitols around the country. It seems this is a message GOP politicians have to relearn over and over: When they run as Reagan Republicans they win; when they run as big government Democrats they lose.
A lot of unreliable Congressional Republicans can get ready to start packing their bags this Fall too.