January 18, 2019
Embattled GOP chief in Pennsylvania presents plan to save Trump in 2020
President Donald Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to win Pennsylvania since 1988, defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by fewer than 45,000 votes. | Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
More than two months after suffering devastating losses up and down the ballot in the midterm election, the leader of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party huddled privately with President Trump’s re-election campaign Thursday to deliver his plan to stop the bleeding in 2020.
The meeting, the first of its kind since the GOP lost a raft of Senate, House, gubernatorial and state legislative races in Pennsylvania, took place against the backdrop of a messy power struggle in the state party as well as a government shutdown that has dragged down Trump’s approval rating.
Val DiGiorgio, chairman of Pennsylvania’s GOP, said his 2020 strategy includes “bringing Trump volunteers who were active in 2016 into the party proper,” using text messaging to recruit party activists, and identifying issues that motivate the state’s swing voters.
DiGiorgio also laid out a proposal Thursday to boost the state committee’s fundraising, which his internal critics have said has lagged since he took took over the party in early 2017.
“It was a soup-to-nuts effort to make sure we’re firing on all cylinders and coordinating with the Trump campaign,” DiGiorgio said. “We’re going to work now through November 2020 to reelect Donald Trump.”
After the 2018 midterms, which were particularly disastrous for Republicans in DiGiorgio’s backyard of suburban Philadelphia, the state party leader’s skeptics questioned whether he should stay at the helm. DiGiorgio’s allies have argued that he helped maintain majorities in the state General Assembly, and did as a good a job as he could in a poor year for Republicans across the country.
Trump’s reelection team expects to huddle with other state party chairs in the weeks ahead to sketch out their 2020 plans. Thursday’s summit with the Pennsylvania GOP was the first such meeting this year, underscoring the importance of the state to Trump’s reelection efforts.
Trump, the first Republican presidential nominee to win Pennsylvania since 1988, defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by fewer than 45,000 votes.
About eight people attended the Thursday meeting, including Chris Carr, political director of Trump’s 2020 campaign; senior campaign aide Bill Stepien; and a Republican National Committee official, according to a person familiar with the event.
“Chairman DiGiorgio presented the campaign with a detailed two-year plan to grow the state party and expand the president’s base,” said Stepien. “We remain united in our effort to keep Pennsylvania Trump Country in 2020.”
The sit-down came weeks ahead of the Pennsylvania GOP’s winter meeting, where different factions of the state party could clash. Speculation has swirled for months that DiGiorgio’s critics may attempt to hold a vote of no confidence at the gathering, though it’s not clear whether they have the procedural ability to do that. His term lasts until 2021.
Ted Christian, the Pennsylvania state director of Trump’s 2016 campaign, urged Republicans to put aside their differences as 2020 approaches.
“The party is going to need to unify and come together like never before, on all levels, to reelect the president,” he said. “Republicans just need to stay together, and I believe that will happen.”
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