Salena Zito

David Goodman had no idea his 19-year-old son, Harris, had registered as a Democrat more than a year ago, until the young man mentioned it on election night.

“Really?” Goodman half-asked, half-joked. “I was feeling it at the time,” Harris replied with a grin. The Vassar sophomore sat with his father for hours in a Holiday Inn banquet room, waiting to see if Pat Toomey would become Pennsylvania’s new U.S. senator-elect. Harris definitely was “feeling it” Tuesday for Republican Toomey. So was his father, a native New Yorker and self-described “dyed-in-the-wool Democrat” who settled his family in Allentown around the time Billy Joel wrote a song about the city that became an anthem of blue-collar America. In the midst of the confetti and the overall fawning of the 2008 presidential election and the Democrats’ control of Congress, most pundits suffered collective amnesia about what happened to the party on its way to back-to-back election victories. In 2006’s midterm takeover of Congress, moderate to conservative Democrats won in competitive House districts, then were led by a House speaker from very progressive San Francisco. In 2008’s cantankerous presidential primary process, a very smart Barack Obama shored up delegates and super-delegates in state caucuses (which were dominated by party elites and activists), causing Hillary Clinton to lose the party’s nomination despite winning the popular vote (which was dominated by traditional and working-class Democrats).

In January 2009, very powerful but very fractured Democrats took to the national stage, confident that a charismatic president would heal – or at least hide – their party’s wounds.

“They could not have been more wrong,” said the elder Goodman. “The direction the Democrats have taken this country is counter to our natural center-right compass.

“I supported the presidency of Barack Obama, I wanted him to succeed. I thought it would be good for the country.

“He has turned out to be a great disappointment.”

The younger Goodman, dressed in a USA Olympic hockey sweater with a “Toomey for Senate” sticker on his chest, agrees – contradicting the conventional wisdom about how young people love Obama and Democrats.

To state the obvious, this was a great year for the GOP in Pennsylvania: Five U.S. House seat pickups, plus a U.S. Senate seat, plus control of the state House, Senate and governor’s office.

“It was a tough night,” admits U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who grew up a little more than an hour north of here.

Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.