GOP Sees Positive Signs for 2020 in Pa. Special Election Win

President Donald Trump looks on as Fred Keller speaks
President Donald Trump looks on as Fred Keller speaks / Getty Images
• May 23, 2019 10:30 am


Democrat Marc Friedenberg was on the ballot again in Pennsylvania's 12th Congressional District on Tuesday—this time facing a relatively unknown state lawmaker rather than a four-term incumbent congressman—and he lost by an even bigger margin, a sign to Republicans that 2020 will not be a repeat of 2018.

Republican Fred Keller defeated Friedenberg by more than 36 points in Tuesday’s special election, a margin greater than the 32 points the district was won by last November. Keller’s win was expected, but underlying factors identified by Republicans, such as waning Democratic enthusiasm and the unpopularity of policies such as the Green New Deal, have the party hopeful it will be able to rebound next November.

A memo released by the National Republican Congressional Committee Wednesday identified the 12th district election as the "first trial run" against a Democratic candidate who runs on policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal.

"The results in the PA-12 special election highlight the debilitating impact the socialist Democrats’ extreme agenda will have on their electoral chances," the memo stated. "Democrat candidate Marc Friedenberg proudly ran on the new socialist Democrat playbook and the result was abysmal, as he was defeated by more than 36 points."

Republican polling in the district indicates that these sorts of radical policies hurt Friedenberg in the district, with 66 percent of voters in the district saying they were "either much less likely or less likely to support a candidate who would steer the country toward socialism."

The margin of victory also has Republicans hopeful that the enthusiasm on the Democratic side is starting to evaporate from where it was in 2018.

"The Democrat enthusiasm advantage is gone," the memo said. "Keller overperformed the 2018 Congressional margin and his margin of victory mirrored President Trump’s 2016 performance."

The playbook for 2020 House races is to force Democrats to embrace the same radical policy ideas as Friedenberg.

"Democrats’ attempts to rehash the same narratives from last cycle will continue to be ineffective, as Republicans will remain laser-focused on the radical socialist ideas House Democrats have spent their time in power proposing," it said. "The NRCC will continue aggressively prosecuting the case against socialism and force the socialist House Democrats to run on their disastrous legislative record, which has focused on imposing bigger government, higher taxes and less individual freedom."

Keller benefited from a visit to the district by President Donald Trump just before the special election. The president on Wednesday called it a "great election" and slammed the media for not giving it the coverage it deserved.