Pa. Republicans setting scene for another Trump win in ’20

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Erie Insurance Arena in October. Pennsylvania GOP supporters of the president have been meeting with some of his advisers to work his best approach to again winning the Keystone State in 2020.  (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Erie Insurance Arena in October. Pennsylvania GOP supporters of the president have been meeting with some of his advisers to work his best approach to again winning the Keystone State in 2020. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Top advisers to President Donald Trump’s campaign have had a big meeting with Pennsylvania’s Republican Party officials in Harrisburg.

It was the second time they’d gotten the major players together in a room aiming to shore up the campaign’s strategy for winning the commonwealth again.

Since that first narrow win in 2016 — Trump finished with a 0.7 percent edge over Hillary Clinton — 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 special elections this year and one for Congress last year.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf and longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey easily held their seats in the face of challenges from Republicans — former Congressman Lou Barletta and onetime state Sen. 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 counting on Trump’s fundamental differences 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,” DiGiorgio said. “We haven’t had that model yet in Pennsylvania — someone nontraditional Republican voters think they’re speaking to their values, that populist, forgotten man.”

DiGiorgio said his conversations with Trump advisers this week in Harrisburg were productive, and he was quick to rebuff any perception — such as 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.

recent Franklin & 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.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.