At Pennsylvania Society, the swanky weekend gathering of the political class in Manhattan, a swift and sudden shift is underway for the Keystone State’s Republican Party approach to mail ballots.
Suddenly, the GOP is all in favor of them.
After two solid years of Republican negative rhetoric about the alleged dangers of mail ballots, party leaders are looking at Pennsylvania’s results in 2020 and 2022.
Democrats vastly outnumbered Republicans in using mail ballots and had two very good elections to show for it.
“We have to now recognize it’s a legal means of voting in our state,” state Republican Chair Lawrence Tabas said after the party’s annual luncheon Friday near Central Park. “We cannot allow the mail-in ballot to be ignored. I’m going to make great efforts to get our voters to vote by mail.”
That doesn’t just run counter to the party’s past messaging. It flies in the face of the forming 2024 Republican presidential field. Former President Donald J. Trump, who has led the pack in lies about election results based on mail ballots, is already a declared candidate.
Andy Reilly, a Republican National Committtee member from Delaware County, said the party is bigger than any one candidate, even Trump. Mail ballots are the way to go, he said. To get there, the party will look past typical political consultants and may hire a professional advertising firm to shift the message.
There have been rumblings about whether Tabas could last his full term, until 2025, after the party lost big in races for governor and U.S. Senate.
Rob Gleason, who was party chair when Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016, said Republicans need to “do a lot of soul searching right now” at the state and national level.
“We need to recover quickly,” he said, “and not let another cycle go by with taking a beating.”
Gleason, a Tabas ally, said the party misstepped this year by not endorsing candidates for governor and Senate, leading to crowded primaries won by State Sen. Doug Mastriano, an avid proponant of Trump’s election lies, and Mehmet Oz, a celebrity television doctor.
At Pennsylvania Society, the party establishment wonders what could have been, especially because Democratic success at the top of the ticket probably helped that party take control of the state House.
“We should never have had the candidates we had for Senate and for governor,” Gleason said. “And I think people learned a lesson from that. Endorsements are very important.”
Gleason predicted Tabas would serve out his full term. Tabas agreed, saying there is “absolutely no movement, no effort” to oust him.
“There’s no story there at all,” Tabas said. “Every election, things go. … People want to talk about change.”