Philly GOP chairman Joe DeFelice didn’t see it coming at first either. This morning he said was “shocked” Donald Trump took Pennsylvania and is going to become the next President. Now that the electoral votes have been totaled up and the concessions given, he’s hopeful the victory could pay dividends for the local party and residents of this heavily Democratic city.
“I know a lot of stuff Trump talks about, it is that kind of urban brand of Republican mixed with some Libertarian and populist,” DeFelice said. “I think if we can find a way to tailor that to Philadelphians and really start hitting on taxes and jobs and education — specifically school choice — I think we can really make a dent.”
Issues such as those have long been at the forefront of the Philadelphia Republican party’s agenda — or what has existed of it. The death of the Republican Party in Philadelphia has been covered extensively. To sum it up briefly, though, we haven’t had a Republican Mayor since the 1950s, just two Republicans represent Philly at the state level and the mandated minimum number of Republicans, plus longtime Councilman Brian O’Neill, serve in city government.
Maybe the most discouraging number for the Republicans is pure registration — Democrats have an advantage in registration of about 850,000 to 300,000. But DeFelice saw signs of encouragement in Republican turnout.
In fact, as he watched election coverage at the Philadelphia Republican headquarters with a team of Republican poll workers and lawyers who had traveled in from around the country to assist with the election, DeFelice said he first began thinking Donald Trump would take Pennsylvania when results from Philadelphia began filtering in. Clinton wasn’t performing like Barack Obama was. She was still winning Philadelphia by a significant margin but not as many people were voting Democratic at polls in West and North Philadelphia, with some wards getting nearly 1,000 fewer votes for Clinton than they did from Obama in 2012. Clinton should end up getting about 15,000 fewer votes than Obama did in 2012 and nearly 25,000 fewer than Obama did in 2008 by the time every vote is counted.
Republicans, on the other hand, voted in greater numbers than in 2012. They’ll end up with over 105,000 votes for Trump, which is about 10,000 more than Romney got. Trump also won in the 66th, 58th and 26th wards. Romney didn’t win in any.
“We kind of knew once those Philadephia numbers were in that was it,” DeFelice said.
DeFelice saw new kinds of Republican voters Tuesday. Some of the union and blue collar workers, he said, were turning from Democrat to vote Trump (early exit polls showed Clinton nationally earned less union support than any Democratic candidate of the last 20 years). Those gains, however, were offset by the loss of some college-educated, wealthier Republicans turned off by Trump who live in areas like Chestnut Hill and neighborhoods dotting Center City.
DeFelice is hoping the possibility of a Trump emphasis on lower taxes, job creation and education can bring those Republicans back into the fold and help Philadelphia cultivate a more active base by 2018, when the governor’s mansion is up for grabs.
Either way, DeFelice sees Philadelphia as an important city for the Trump presidency. He noted that Trump went to Penn, and members of his staff were calling him to check in throughout the day on Tuesday.
“I think,” DeFelice said, “he’s going to pay a lot of attention to Philadelphia.”