HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – As the widely open races for governor and the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania take shape, Republican candidates with close ties to Donald Trump are coming forward and are seen as strong contenders for the party’s nominations – a a powerful sign of the enduring popularity of the former president. within the GOP.
Within days of each other, Sean Parnell entered the race for the US Senate and Lou Barletta entered the race for governor. Trump had urged the two to run for previous offers for public office.
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Barletta explained the calculation for running under the Republican banner.
“Donald Trump is still the leader of the Republican Party and anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know what they’re talking about, and especially in Pennsylvania,” Barletta told former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on the Bannon podcast, ” War Room. “
Parnell and Barletta have deep ties to Trump.
Barletta was co-chair of Trump’s presidential campaign in Pennsylvania in 2016 and a staunch ally on Capitol Hill when he was in Congress. He was Trump’s endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018 and watched the Super Bowl that year with the then president. He was one of Trump’s hand-picked presidential voters in Pennsylvania last year and hired veterans of Trump’s campaign to lead his own.
Parnell, a regular guest on Fox News programs, received numerous Twitter and campaign calls from Trump to bolster his unsuccessful candidacy for US House last year and landed a coveted speaking spot at the Republican National Convention.
Parnell counts Donald Trump Jr. as a friend and drew his praise on Twitter the day he announced his candidacy for the US Senate.
If Trump is toxic to Republicans, as some party members believe, it doesn’t show, even after Trump’s long and baseless campaign to discredit his 2020 election defeat as a fraud and his role in the fierceness. partisans before they attack the United States Capitol. January 6 in a stunning attempt to overthrow the presidential election.
Republican voters do not appear to be affected in their support for candidates backed by Trump, said Jim Lee, chairman of Susquehanna Polling and Research, whose polls include election polls and polls for Republican candidates.
But Lee also described the opposition of independent voters to Trump-aligned candidates as “a brick wall with a few layers thick.”
âWhat’s an asset in a primary could potentially be a liability in the fall,â Lee said.
It may not be a mistake that Parnell’s first attack on his GOP rival Jeff Bartos was to try to break his ties with Trump.
The Bartos campaign quickly sent a Parnell missive on Twitter from 2016, when he criticized Trump’s refusal to release his taxes. Parnell had campaigned for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida in the presidential primary that year, but his criticism didn’t end when Rubio dropped out.
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For example, Parnell retweeted a headline saying Trump would not disown support for David Duke or the KKK. Parnell commented, “Guess I should be surprised, but I’m not.” In another, he criticized Trump’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
âI’m a guy I call that as I see it,â Parnell said in an interview about his criticism of Trump at the time. âYou know, I do all I can to call bullets and strikes. I stand up against my party when I think it is wrong. And I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe.
Trump’s policies, on the whole, were good for the country, Parnell said, and he grew up supporting what Trump stood for after seeing Trump’s popularity in Pennsylvania that year.
Parnell and Barletta both say they want Trump’s endorsement, but don’t necessarily campaign strictly on Trump: their introductory campaign videos never mention it.
Meanwhile, State Senator Doug Mastriano – who has all but declared his candidacy for governor – is posing as Trump’s preferred candidate.
A Trump adviser pointed out that Trump had made no endorsement. Some Republican Party officials doubt Trump will support a contested primary if it is not clear who will ultimately win it.
No politician wants to support a loser, they say.
A primary without approval might be fine for Republican candidates who hope to capitalize in areas where Trump is less popular.
In southeastern Pennsylvania, a critical mass of Republicans voted against Trump, helping Joe Biden to victory in November.
“In southeastern Pennsylvania, endorsing Donald Trump would probably hurt a candidate as much as it helps them,” said Jackie Kulback, Cambria County GOP chairperson. “I mean, Pennsylvania is like two different worlds.”
Another headache for Republicans is getting many Trump voters to vote in elections when Trump is not on the ballot.
That’s a concern in 2022, and even party officials who back Trump recognize that attracting moderate voters from Pennsylvania will be critical to general election victories.
“You can be the meanest, the most die-hard, make America a radical Republican again, and you can win a primary,” said Dave Ball, Chairman of the Washington County GOP. âBut you can’t win a general election because you can’t shoot centerâ¦ I don’t care how you cut it. You need votes. “
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