EDITORIAL: Wagner meets Bannon

York Dispatch

As a successful businessman, it's a certainty that state Sen. Scott Wagner has a well-rehearsed elevator speech at the ready.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that when Wagner found himself on a plane to St. Louis last weekend with conservative firebrand Steve Bannon, Wagner came off the plane with a national political player on his side.

Wagner was traveling to a conservative event, and meeting Bannon on the way was just a coincidence, the Republican from Spring Garden Township said. 

Bannon resigned from the Trump administration on Aug. 18, and he's been busy since then. returning to his role as chief executive at Breitbart, the far-right website, while taking his ultra-conservative message to numerous crowds.

And he's getting wins. On Tuesday, Bannon-backed Senate candidate Roy Moore defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in a special election in Alabama. You might have heard of Moore, he made national news by defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from an Alabama judicial building.

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon speaks at a rally for U.S. Senate hopeful Roy Moore, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017, in Fairhope, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

After the election results came out, President Donald Trump deleted his tweets supporting Strange.

Last weekend, Bannon urged that conservative gathering in St. Louis to support Wagner in his bid to become Pennsylvania's governor next year.

Bannon touted Wagner as challenging “a corrupt and incompetent Republican establishment” that he says hasn’t supported Trump. 

Wagner told the crowd that flying to St. Louis with Bannon left him “500 percent more emboldened.” He also said Pennsylvanians are being “shafted” by politicians from both major parties and criticized the state Senate’s Republican leadership as giving Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf “a free pass.”

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It's easy to see Bannon's appeal for Wagner. After all, Bannon's divisive, ultraconservative message got Trump the presidency.

And Wagner likes being the outsider voice, the only person to ever win a state Senate seat with a write-in campaign. Wagner likes being the "no" vote in the room, consistently fighting against what he sees as government overreach into business affairs.

He also draws controversy, from asserting that climate change is caused by body heat to saying he'd be "sitting in the back of the room with a baseball bat" in reference to getting things done in Harrisburg. This spring, there was a police investigation after he grabbed the camera of a man filming him during an event at Country Club of York. No charges were filed.

So yes, so far Wagner seems to be following Bannon's playbook of being the loudest voice in the room and speaking and acting off the cuff. 

But, senator, we'd like to point out that, despite what many politicians and strategists say, Pennsylvania is not Alabama.

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Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016 by 44,000 votes. Democrat Gov. Tom Wolf won his office in 2014 by a margin of 344,000 votes.

Right now, there are more than 4 million voters registered as Democrats in the state while there are 3.24 million registered Republicans, according to the Department of State.

Trump was the first Republican presidential candidate to win Pennsylvania since 1988. And while historically Pennsylvanians swing from one party to the other in the governor's mansion every eight years, Wolf broke that trend by ousting Republican Gov. Tom Corbett after only one term.

Pennsylvanians prefer a more balanced approach in their politicians. So a gubernatorial candidate endorsed by the far-right, divisive Bannon? Probably not a good choice for this state. 

And senator, sometimes it's OK to get out of the elevator without making that speech.