Paint Washington County red
Despite naysayers proclaiming the demise of the GOP, mostly from liberals, the trend in Washington County toward Republicans was on full display in this year’s election. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney carried Washington County convincingly, winning by 12 points and doing well in nearly every geographic area.
His victory was predictable, continuing a trend of Republican candidates enjoying rising strength here. Below are the county’s Republican presidential results since 1992. The number in parentheses represents the margin of loss (a negative number) or victory (a positive number):
1992, George H.W. Bush (-29)
1996, Robert Dole (-17)
2000, George W. Bush (- 9)
2004, George W. Bush (-1)
2008, John McCain (+5)
2012, Mitt Romney (+12)
Thus, Republicans have gained 41 points in 20 years. The pattern is as unmistakable as it is unrelenting. In 20 years, five Republicans have faced off against four different Democrats. Each election had its own unique dynamic of candidates, politics and economics, yet each election shows the same result: Republican gains. And now, for the first time in any of our lifetimes, back-to-back Republican candidate victories.
Want more evidence of the county’s turn toward the Republicans? Political newcomer Tom Smith beat Democratic darling Bob Casey by 4 points in the race for Casey’s U.S. Senate seat. State Rep. Rick Saccone, a fire-breathing, unapologetic, pro-life, pro-gun, pro-Bible Republican beat Levdansky by 6 points in the Mon Valley, garnering 557 more votes than in 2010. Who would have even thought that possible?
That brings us to the congressional race between Tim Murphy and Larry Maggi. Murphy won by 16 points over the popular county commissioner. Murphy dominated across the county despite the natural advantage many expected Maggi to have. So total was the victory that Murphy even beat him on his home turf of Buffalo Township. Ouch!
Local Democrats should be concerned. A Republican like Saccone beating an establishment Democrat in the Mon Valley and Murphy embarrassing Maggi, a well-liked and popular county politician, in his own county should raise more than a few eyebrows. The fact of the matter is the Democratic hold on the county is tenuous. Their power bases in the City of Washington, Canonsburg and the Mon Valley continue to experience declines, while the overwhelmingly Republican communities of North Strabane, Cecil and Peters townships enjoy robust growth.
The tide is turning in the county and has been for 20 years. Republicans continue closing the voter registration gap and Tuesday night’s results demonstrate they’ve won the vote, if not yet the heart of county voters.