Need more proof that President Trump's takeover of the Republican Party is done, complete, finito?
Consider the candidacy of Seth Grossman, a Republican running for an open congressional seat in New Jersey against Democrat Jeff Van Drew.
On June 11, the Inquirer and Daily News reported that the former Atlantic County freeholder said that "the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap and un-American." He also spoke of a time "when America was great" and "one parent alone earned more than enough money to comfortably support a family."
They also didn't cost him financially, at least not compared with his previous record of fundraising. Grossman's contributions nearly tripled after he made headlines, going from roughly $13,000 beforehand to $36,000 afterward, according to his campaign finance reports. (These figures don't include Grossman's small-dollar contributions, which aren't categorized by date, or donations he made to himself.)
Some local GOP groups stuck by Grossman's side, too: The Avalon and Atlantic City Republican Clubs were among the donors that gave money to Grossman's campaign between June 12 and 30, the final date of the last reporting cycle.
The Atlantic City Republican Club is still backing Grossman, whom it calls a "friend" on Facebook. It's unclear if the Avalon Republican Club is doing the same: Attempts to reach the group were unsuccessful. The NRCC, meanwhile, withdrew its support from Grossman in July, after Media Matters reported that he'd posted a link on Facebook to a piece on a white nationalist website that said black people are "a threat to all they encounter."
Michael Muller, a spokesman for Van Drew, said Grossman's comments were "repugnant" and that he has spread the "most extreme right-wing rhetoric, that has been rejected by national Republican leadership." In Facebook ads, the Van Drew campaign has called those who donated to Grossman after June 11 "online Tea Party trolls."
Grossman said he knows why he got a boost in fundraising after that date. Be forewarned: It may give you a flashback to 2016.
"Obviously, the Inquirer and national media made me a national celebrity," he said. "A whole lot of people who never heard of me started going to my website and Googling me."
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump received more than $5 billion worth of "free" advertising from media coverage, according to an analysis by mediaQuant.
Despite the fundraising uptick, Grossman is still well short of the $1 million-plus typically needed to win a campaign for the U.S. House. He has only $56,000 on hand, per his latest filings. Van Drew, a state senator, has out-raised him many times over: He's brought in more than $1 million, and has about $675,000 on hand.
Is Vince Fenerty a field marshal in a new civil war between factions in Philadelphia's Republican Party? Or is he simply a scorned political player lashing out at the party that sent him packing?
Fenerty, leader of the city's 18th and 31st Wards, fired off a text recently to fellow Republicans, urging them to abandon the local GOP's biggest fundraiser: the annual Billy Meehan Clambake, which will be held Sunday in the city's Torresdale section for the 34th year in a row. Instead, Fenerty suggested attending a "Picnic on the Delaware" he was hosting with State Rep. John Taylor to raise money for Election Day expenses.
"John Taylor and I have made a strategic decision not to support the Clam Bake due to poor decisions recently articulated by the City Committee," Fenerty said in his text.
We hear the party tension is precipitated by two problems, one petty and one potentially more serious.
For the petty, Fenerty is still salty about being ousted in June from his post as party secretary. One of his duties used to be organizing the clambake.
"I think a lot of people saw it as their opportunity to get even with him," said Michael Meehan, chairman of the city's Republican Party, of the June party vote.
The larger threat to the GOP is what one Republican insider called a "regionalization of the party," with neighborhoods like Northeast Philly going one way and the River Wards, South Philly, and Center City going another. Fenerty's power base is in the River Wards.
Fenerty would be an odd choice to lead any faction in this battle, having resigned from his longtime post as boss of the patronage-rich Philadelphia Parking Authority in 2016 in the public glare of two sexual harassment cases.
Plus, Fenerty seems to be going at alone. The claims in his text apparently came as a surprise to Taylor, who is retiring this year after 17 terms in the state House. Taylor previously served as local party chairman, ending the last Republican civil war in 2013.
"Anything Vince wrote in that text, you're going to have to ask him," Taylor told us. "I don't have any issue with City Committee or the Clambake or anything like that."
Fenerty was less than forthcoming.
"I'm not talking about anything about the Clambake or the City Committee," he said.
In Philadelphia, where the Democratic Party reigns supreme, Clout doesn't entirely understand the point of the GOP civil wars. It's like fighting to be captain of a Pop Warner football team that plays in the shadow of Lincoln Financial Field.