Protest ex­em­pli­fies GOP swing-dis­trict strat­egy

Street de­mon­stra­tion, ad cam­paigns tar­get com­pet­i­tive seats like Wild’s

The Morning Call - - FRONT PAGE - BY LAURA OL­SON AND NI­COLE RADZIEVICH

Wav­ing Don­ald Trump flags and chant­ing “four more years,” the pres­i­dent’s al­lies took their counter-im­peach­ment cam­paign on the road Thurs­day to put pres­sure on Le­high Val­ley Con­gress­woman Su­san Wild.

Gath­er­ing across the street from Wild’s Al­len­town of­fice at lunchtime Thurs­day, roughly 50 peo­ple car­ried signs read­ing “Keep Amer­ica Great” and other sig­na­ture Trump slo­gans as they chanted up to Wild’s of­fice to “Do your job!”

The protest was part of a se­ries or­ga­nized across the coun­try by Trump’s re­elec­tion cam­paign and the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee. Although the event was punc­tu­ated by one woman who yelled “Im­peach Wild,” at­ten­dees largely di­rected their frus­tra­tion at Democrats broadly.

James Santo, a 65-year-old re­tiree from Wind Gap, said he be­lieves the im­peach­ment in­quiry has been mo­ti­vated by par­ti­san­ship and not facts. He ques­tioned why the Demo­crat­ic­con­trolled U.S. House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives didn’t take a vote to for­mally launch the im­peach­ment probe prompted by the pres­i­dent’s phone call urg­ing the Ukrainian leader to in­ves­ti­gate for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den and his son Hunter.

“In all fair­ness, they should have a straight vote and have every­body on the record,” Santo said.

The GOP cam­paign, dubbed “Stop the Mad­ness,” tar­gets Democrats whose seats are con­sid­ered

com­pet­i­tive next year. Sim­i­lar protests have been or­ches­trated in the subur­ban Pittsburgh dis­trict of Rep. Conor Lamb, in ad­di­tion to po­ten­tial swing dis­tricts in Michi­gan, Wis­con­sin, Ge­or­gia, Ari­zona and other states.

The RNC wasn’t the only na­tional GOP vis­i­tor to Penn­syl­va­nia on Thurs­day: Rep. Doug Collins of Ge­or­gia, a key ally of Trump on Capi­tol Hill and the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the House Ju­di­ciary panel, head­lined the Northamp­ton County Repub­li­can Com­mit­tee din­ner that evening, where he planned to talk about pol­icy vic­to­ries the party could com­mu­ni­cate to the elec­torate but ex­pected ques­tions on the im­peach­ment probe.

In an in­ter­view be­fore the fundraiser at the Ho­tel Beth­le­hem, Collins crit­i­cized the im­peach­ment process as “par­ti­san” and blamed re­cent poll num­bers fa­vor­ing im­peach­ment as the re­sult of “the steady drum­beat of a one-sided ar­gu­ment from the Democrats.”

“The poll right now is sim­ply a snapshot in time,” he said. “As time goes on, peo­ple will see that this is just an­other … [ex­am­ple of the Democrats] chas­ing to get rid of the pres­i­dent as they have for a long time now.”

In ad­di­tion to the protests, RNC also has launched $2 mil­lion in tele­vi­sion and dig­i­tal ads in the dis­tricts of 60 vul­ner­a­ble

Democrats, in­clud­ing Wild and Lamb. Those ads also are tar­get­ing Reps. Matt Cartwright of Lack­awanna County; Mary Gay Scan­lon of Delaware County; and Chrissy Houla­han of Ch­ester County.

The Con­gres­sional Lead­er­ship Fund, the main GOP su­per PAC fo­cused on House races, has also launched ads crit­i­ciz­ing Cartwright and Lamb for their sup­port of the im­peach­ment in­quiry. Mean­while, a Demo­cratic group with close ties to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is run­ning ads in many of those same dis­tricts, seek­ing to counter the fram­ing that Democrats are solely fo­cused on im­peach­ment.

At Thurs­day’s protest, that was a con­cern for Ni­cole Gross, 53, who lives out­side Wild’s dis­trict in Bucks County. “While they’re do­ing this phony baloney, they’re not ad­dress­ing the opioid epi­demic, ed­u­ca­tion or im­mi­gra­tion,” Gross said.

Lawrence Tabas, chair­man of the state Repub­li­can Party, ac­cused the fresh­man law­maker of not work­ing on is­sues that af­fect her con­stituents. In­stead, Tabas ac­cused her of jump­ing on “the Nancy Pelosi im­peach­ment train.”

“It started with Rus­sia. It then went to [for­mer spe­cial coun­sel Robert] Mueller. Now Democrats have this bo­gus Ukrainian claim be­cause they know they can­not beat Don­ald Trump at the polls next year,” said Tabas, who was joined at the rally by Bernie Com­fort, chair­woman of Trump’s re­elec­tion ef­fort in Penn­syl­va­nia, and Tom Car­roll, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee in the Northamp­ton County dis­trict at­tor­ney race. “This is an act of des­per­a­tion, but who can blame them be­cause we have one of the best economies we’ve had in decades.”

It was un­clear if Wild was in the tar­geted of­fice. In com­ments and at re­cent events, Wild has sought to counter the idea that Democrats are only fo­cused on im­peach­ment.

She had re­sisted calls to sup­port an in­quiry into the pres­i­dent’s ac­tion un­til the days after rev­e­la­tions about the whistle­blower com­plaint, when a swell of her col­leagues moved in sup­port of an im­peach­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion and Pelosi an­nounced the probe.

Wild said last week that she hasn’t heard much about im­peach­ment as she trav­els the dis­trict, but that calls to her of­fice on the mat­ter have been over­whelm­ingly in fa­vor of the in­quiry. Wild drew ap­plause dur­ing her town hall meet­ing when she said con­stituents are more in­ter­ested in what Con­gress is do­ing on is­sues like re­duc­ing pre­scrip­tion drug prices.

Her 7th Dis­trict, which in­cludes Le­high, Northamp­ton and part of south­ern Monroe coun­ties, is viewed as one of the most com­pet­i­tive con­gres­sional seats in the coun­try.

The dis­trict leans Demo­cratic in voter reg­is­tra­tion and Wild won the dis­trict by 10 points in Novem­ber. But those dis­trict vot­ers backed Demo­crat Hil­lary Clin­ton by only 1 per­cent­age point in 2016, when Northamp­ton County was one of three pre­vi­ously Demo­cratic coun­ties in the state that Trump flipped in his fa­vor.

Wild’s staff sent an email sur­vey Wed­nes­day ask­ing con­stituents their views of the im­peach­ment probe.

“Do you think Pres­i­dent Trump’s own ad­mis­sions to the phone call with Pres­i­dent Ze­len­sky, the White House’s sum­mary of the phone call, and the in­tel­li­gence com­mu­nity’s whistle­blower com­plaint show an un­prece­dented abuse of pres­i­den­tial power?” read one ques­tion from Wild’s im­peach­ment sur­vey.

Be­low the ques­tions, Wild added that she “will con­tinue to be laser-fo­cused on im­prov­ing the ev­ery­day lives of hard­work­ing Penn­syl­va­ni­ans across the Greater Le­high Val­ley and ad­vanc­ing my im­por­tant work on the Ed­u­ca­tion & La­bor, For­eign Af­fairs, and Ethics Com­mit­tees.”

“The last thing I wanted to do when I came to Con­gress was fo­cus on im­peach­ment and my pri­or­i­ties have re­mained un­changed,” Wild said in a state­ment Thurs­day.

Pub­lic opin­ion polls con­ducted since the Ukraine saga be­gan to un­fold have shown ris­ing sup­port for im­peach­ment among vot­ers across the ide­o­log­i­cal spec­trum.

A na­tional Fox News poll re­leased Wed­nes­day found 51% of reg­is­tered vot­ers sup­port im­peach­ing Trump and re­mov­ing him from of­fice, spark­ing a Twit­ter rant by Trump. An ad­di­tional 4% fa­vor im­peach­ment but not re­mov­ing Trump, and 40% op­pose im­peach­ment.

Those fa­vor­ing im­peach­ment and re­moval in the Fox poll jumped 9 per­cent­age points com­pared with July, with key por­tions of Trump’s base — white evan­gel­i­cals, white men with­out a col­lege de­gree and ru­ral white vot­ers — among those mov­ing in sup­port of im­peach­ment. Among subur­ban women, a de­mo­graphic that will be piv­otal in next year’s elec­tion, nearly six in 10 sup­port Trump’s re­moval.

Tom Cam­pi­one, a Heller­town res­i­dent and part of the Le­high Val­ley Tea Party, said he doesn’t trust re­cent polls that show more reg­is­tered vot­ers sup­port im­peach­ment, say­ing Trump de­fied polls in win­ning the 2016 elec­tion.

“We have some­thing called the Con­sti­tu­tion,” Cam­pi­one said. “That’s bet­ter than any poll.”

PHO­TOS BY MON­ICA CABR­ERA/THE MORN­ING CALL

State Repub­li­can Party Chair­man Lawrence Tabas, left, and the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee hold a news con­fer­ence Thurs­day to crit­i­cize U.S. Rep. Su­san Wild, D-7th, for sup­port­ing the im­peach­ment in­quiry into Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

Jen­nifer Papiernik, left, and Ni­cole Gross, both of Quak­er­town, par­tic­i­pate in the de­mon­stra­tion out­side Wild’s Al­len­town of­fice.

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