The Birth of a Movement
Twenty years ago, MASF National Chairman Rick Potter and a group of concerned Texans were eager to assist in promoting then-Governor George W. Bush to the White House. Their strategy was simple: fly, drive, take a bus or train to the nearest battleground state and assist the local Republican committee in getting out the vote. Their strategy worked and the Mighty Texas Strike Force was born.
Rick Potter has traveled to Pennsylvania five times since the inception of the Strike Force. The aptly-named Keystone State of Pennsylvania had been elusive to Republicans since the days of Reagan who had won the state handily by margins exceeding 7%. Although George H. W. Bush won the state in 1988, it was by a slim margin of 2.3% and he would go on to lose a second term to Bill Clinton in 1992. In the 1996 election, Clinton would again capture the state with a margin of 440,000 votes representing over 9% of votes cast.
The presidency would be in the hands of the Republicans for two terms until, in 2008, Barack Obama, would win Pennsylvania by 660,000 votes, the most since Nixon's landslide victory in 1972. Obama's 10% margin, although cut in half in his successful bid for reelection, seemed quite enough to usher in Hillary Clinton in 2016. Rick Potter was watching his adopted state turn blue.
There is No Path to 270
"There is no path to 270," trumpeted the national media for most of Donald Trump's candidacy. A state like Pennsylvania, which had backed an unbroken string of Republicans from Lincoln through the likes of Grant, Garfield, TR, Harding. Coolidge, and Hoover now seemed firmly in the grip of the Democrats.
In the east, Philadelphia had not seen a Republican mayor since 1941. In the west, the Democrats' string of mayors had been unbroken since 1934, including in 2006, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl who, at the age of 26, could still have been on his dad's health insurance plan.
It's 2016 - The Strikers Move In
With over 1,500 volunteers nationwide, the Strike Force began providing local support in battleground areas such as Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Iowa. Block walking, operating phone banks, engaging on social media, and managing political rallies in the final days of the campaign proved critical in a state like Pennsylvania.
At midnight on the night of the 2016 election, Georgia was called for Donald Trump. The Trump campaign was still short of the needed 270 electoral votes and Pennsylvania was too close to call. It would be another three hours before Pennsylvania and Wisconsin would finally put Trump over the top. Pennsylvania had gone Republican by a scant 44,000 votes - a margin of less than one percent.
Back to Texas
Rick took a phone call in the car on the way to the airport that day. Exhausted from months of preparation and the physical grind of the final weeks, he heard the caller's account of the final numbers and acknowledged perfunctorily. Jerry Morgan, long-time Pennsylvania political consultant and Congressional Liaison said, "Rick, I'm not sure you understand what I'm saying. Were it not for the efforts of the Mighty American Strike Force in 2016, I seriously doubt that Trump would have carried Pennsylvania. He would not be the 45th president of the United States."