Wagner’s Plain Talk Resonating with Voters

Member Group : Marc Scaringi

Scott Wagner’s primary election victory Tuesday night over Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth is like a second Pennsylvania primary election victory for Donald Trump.

Wagner, like Trump, eschewed political correctness as he barreled forward delivering his message to drain the swamp and fix our broken state government. Wagner muscled by his more polished and articulate opponents with his brash, brusque Trumpian style.

Like in the Pennsylvania primary in 2016, Republicans heard and responded to the candidate who will not only take it to his liberal, Democratic opponent in the fall, but also to the entire ruling political class in Harrisburg.

Wagner’s voters, like Trump’s, stuck with him through the highs and lows of what would become one of the most contentious Republican primary campaigns in modern history.

In the movie “Jerry Maguire,” the actress Renee Zellweger’s character tells Tom Cruise’s Jerry Maguire, “You had me at hello.”

Well, Wagner had me four-years ago, when, as a newly-elected state Senator, he declared, “I’m gonna be sitting in the back of the room with a baseball bat. And leadership is gonna start doing things for [sic] Pennsylvania needs done.”

It’s this kind of tough, no-nonsense talk that resonated among rank and file Republican voters and put Wagner over the top.

Wagner, like Trump, describes himself as a “blue collar” guy and appeals to those who are fed up with career politicians who get richer, fatter paychecks and pensions, while so many Pennsylvanians suffer under Pennsylvania’s moribund economy.

Among Wagner, Mango and Ellsworth, Wagner was most in tune with Republican primary voters; the other candidates waged outdated campaigns with tired and stale messages from the past.

Mango’s “establishment” stripes were shown when in the 2016 Republican presidential primary he donated first to Jeb! and then to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Knowing the importance of social conservatives to winning a primary election in Pennsylvania, Mango morphed into a Santorum-esque family-values cultural warrior from the 90s. Remember Trump’s critique of another family-values politician who Trump claimed would hold the Bible high and then put it down and lie?

After professing to his core values of faith, family and service to others, Mango launched one of the meanest, most vicious attack campaigns in Pennsylvania history. One of Mango’s ads that falsely accused Wagner of being a “deadbeat dad” was so nasty it drew the rebuke of the Chairman of the Republican State Party and even Wagner’s daughter.

The other candidate, Laura Ellsworth, ran like she was Lynn Yeakel in 1992’s Year of the Woman.

I listened to Ellsworth speak to a group of mostly conservative, politically involved central Pennsylvanians.

She talked about this being another Year of the Woman and that we should vote for her because she’s a woman. I was astounded by how politically tone deaf she was. Conservatives have been beaten down by liberals and the media for being “against women” for so long.

And, here was Ellsworth, a person with no political experience, except donating for Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, admonishing a group of conservatives to vote for her because of her sex.

Ah, that’s a no.

Republican primary voters have spoken loud and clear in 2016 and then again last night. They want a candidate who will represent the “forgotten men and women” of Pennsylvania who work hard every day and yet get further and further behind as the political class gets more ensconced in their positions of privilege and power.

After three-and-a-half years of Gov. Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania’s economy is still a shell of its former self.

The financial literacy site, WalletHub, ranks Pennsylvania the 6thworst state in which to start a business. U.S. News ranks Pennsylvania near the bottom of the list for fiscal stability and quality of life. Rich States, Poor States ranks Pennsylvania 35th for economic performance and 38th for economic outlook.

The Tax Foundation ranks us 33rd for our high property taxes and 44th for corporate taxes. And despite the enactment of modest pension reform last summer, Pennsylvania taxpayers are still on the hook for over $76 billion in unfunded liabilities owed to two state public pension funds.

That’s why Pennsylvanian’s Republican primary voters responded to the candidate who threatened to take a baseball bat to the establishment.

They voted for the candidate they believe will swing away at the political class and make them heed the will of the people a and who will return Pennsylvania to the place it once held as one of the best states in America in which to live, work, raise a family and retire.

Marc A. Scaringi, of Camp Hill, is a PennLive Opinion contributor. His work appears biweekly.