Go figure. A sexting scandal forces the resignation of the chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party, and one of the greatest beneficiaries may be none other than He-of-the-Porn-Star-Romp-Himself, President Donald Trump.
The Inquirer exclusive Tuesday that Val DiGiorgio III traded sexually charged messages with a GOP Philadelphia City Council candidate eight months ago was, at its core, a salacious example of moral hypocrisy and inexplicably poor judgment by a leader of America’s “family values” party. But in Machiavellian terms, the scandal may be a good thing for the Trump White House as reelection season hits us like a hurricane.
By announcing his resignation soon after publication of the story, DiGiorgio put an end to a less-than stellar run atop the state party — a two-plus-year tenure so rocky that even Trump’s campaign folks had grown worried following GOP losses in 2017 and 2018.
“I’m disappointed that the state chairman had to resign under these circumstances. But it’s time for the party to regroup and move forward to elect our judicial candidates this year and President Trump next year,” DiGiorgio’s very pro-Trump predecessor at the helm of the state party, Rob Gleason, told me Tuesday. “Pennsylvania is key to the reelection of the president in 2020. We must have a very strong state party to replicate what the party did in 2016.”
With Democratic presidential debates beginning this week, the desire by Republicans to regroup in Pennsylvania could not be more acute. Especially given the disastrous results in successive elections under DiGiorgio’s leadership.
DiGiorgio, a Chester County lawyer born in South Philadelphia, faced an uphill battle from the moment he won the chairmanship in February 2017, just one month after Trump’s inauguration.
DiGiorgio was elected to the helm of a state party largely run by rural Republicans, and won by a razor-thin margin of just two votes over a man who had been much more invested in Trump’s anti-establishment victory: Gleason’s longtime counsel to the state party, Philadelphia election lawyer Lawrence Tabas.
Tabas had been there as Gleason, a central Pennsylvania Republican, fashioned the party into a Trump election engine in 2016.
DiGiorgio, on the other hand, had just watched Hillary Clinton cream Trump in Chester County, despite a GOP voter majority in the county where he ran the party, and despite Trump’s statewide upset.
The narrow vote for DiGiorgio reflected intensifying internal divisions within the party itself, even though it has controlled the Pennsylvania legislature for years. Republican power in the state increasingly has come from rural and Rust Belt regions in the belly of Pennsylvania, and much less from the Philly suburbs, where the GOP has lost its once-ironclad control of Delaware and Montgomery Counties in recent years.
After defeating Tabas, things began to deteriorate, and quickly, for DiGiorgio.
Then came the congressional and state legislative midterms this past November. An absolute bloodbath.
Republicans in Southeastern Pennsylvania were wiped off the map in state House and Senate elections. And with the aid of a state Supreme Court ruling that erased the state’s gerrymandered congressional boundaries, Democratic women won four newly drawn U.S. House seats, from Allentown down to Chester County, all in eastern Pennsylvania. The gubernatorial race, too, was a wipeout for the GOP.
In December, DiGiorgio resigned as chief of the Chester County party.
People were so worried about what the drumbeat of GOP losses might mean for Trump’s reelection prospects in this must-win state for any president that his campaign folks met with party officials two months ago in Harrisburg to lay out how they planned to run things in Pennsylvania over the next two years.
Trump campaign officials came, according to Gleason, “and met with leaders of the Pennsylvania Republican Party and gave a briefing on how they plan to win Pennsylvania.”
I asked Gleason if DiGiorgio’s fall would be beneficial, ultimately, for Trump’s reelection prospects.
“I don’t want to say that,” Gleason answered.