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GOP 'bloodletting' continued in Philly suburbs; what does it mean for Trump in 2020?

Andrew Seidman and Julia Terruso, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Political News

PHILADELPHIA -- The Democrats' shellacking of Republicans in the Philadelphia suburbs Tuesday raised doubts about Donald Trump's reelection prospects in the key battleground of Pennsylvania, as voters in the populous region signaled continuing discomfort with the president.

Democrats' historic takeover of county governments in Delaware, Chester and Bucks counties built on the party's success there in federal, state and local elections since Trump took office. The results underscored a political realignment that has been underway for decades -- but accelerated by Trump's election -- in which suburban areas long controlled by the GOP have moved to the left, thanks in part to demographic changes.

That trend was also evident Tuesday in Virginia, where Democrats wiped out Republicans in the suburbs and took control of the state Legislature. At the same time, rural areas across the country have become more Republican.

"There continues to be bloodletting and further erosion of suburban voters from the GOP," said former U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., a moderate who retired from his Lehigh Valley-based seat last year. "I just don't know how Republicans will be able to offset the losses in suburban and exurban communities with increasing tallies from rural voters."

"Suburban Philadelphia's extremely disappointing," said U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, the lone Republican holding statewide office in Pennsylvania.

Democrats also dominated races in the Lehigh Valley, racking up county government wins, as well as in races for judge and district attorney in Northampton County. And in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, a Democrat defeated an incumbent Republican on the Allegheny County Council with 60% of the vote.

 

The dominant theme Tuesday was how nationalized local elections have become, said Sarah Niebler, a political science professor at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa. In Cumberland County, which voted for Trump in 2016, borough councils elected Democrats in Carlisle, Mechanicsburg and Camp Hill.

"The idea that local elections are immune from the national political climate is increasingly not true," Niebler said. "Partisanship is permeating all the way down."

But even as Democrats celebrated their victories, they cautioned it would be premature to write off Trump in 2020, particularly given that his name wasn't on the ballot this week.

"The trends look good," said Mike Mikus, a Pittsburgh-based Democratic consultant who worked on local races in Southwest Pennsylvania. "But I think in the end, we have to brace ourselves for a really tough race."

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