Top advisors to President Donald Trump’s campaign had a big meeting with Pennsylvania’s Republican Party officials in Harrisburg on Wednesday.
It was the second time they’d gotten the major players together in a room, and the goal was to shore up the campaign’s strategy for winning the commonwealth for a second time.
Since that first narrow win in 2016—Trump finished with a 0.7 percent edge—Pennsylvania’s conservatives have suffered a string of election losses. And if the president is going to claim the state again, his backers are banking on him outperforming the average Republican candidate.
Pennsylvania is one of the key states the GOP—and Democrats—are targeting in the run-up to 2020.
The midterms saw Democrats flip 16 seats in the state legislature, and the GOP lost two contested special elections this year and one for Congress last year.
Incumbent Democratic Governor Tom Wolf and longtime Democratic Senator Bob Casey easily held their seats in the face of challenges from Republicans—former Congressman Lou Barletta and onetime state Senator Scott Wagner—who modeled themselves after Trump.
State GOP Chair Val DiGiorgio acknowledged his party’s fortunes may be shifting—especially in a key area.
“You know, the question is, what happens in the suburbs?” he said. “Suburbs have been trending Democrat and certainly since President Trump’s election, all across the country we’ve seen them moving more and more Democrat.”
But he said he and other party officials are banking on Trump being fundamentally different from other GOP candidates.
“There are a lot of Democrat votes that vote for Donald Trump that aren’t necessarily translating yet to the down-ticket,” he said. “We haven’t had that model yet in Pennsylvania—someone who, non-traditional Republican voters think they’re speaking to their values, that populist, forgotten man.”
DiGiorgio said his conversations with Trump advisors this week in Harrisburg were productive, and he was quick to rebuff any perception—like the one suggested in a recent article from Politico—that the national party is concerned about the commonwealth.
This meeting, he said, is the first of many that Trump officials will be conducting in swing states.
A recent Franklin and Marshall College poll has Trump at a 36 percent approval rating among the state’s registered voters. That shakes out to about one in three people, which is roughly the same as former President Barack Obama’s approval rating in an F&M poll during the same period of his presidency.