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Republicans across Pennsylvania are questioning former President Trump’s last-minute endorsement of State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) in the gubernatorial race. Many have continued lining up behind former Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA), who has previously unseated Democrats in local and congressional races.
On Saturday, Trump announced his endorsement of Mastriano, whom statewide Republican Party leaders worry will be a tough sell in a general election against Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democrat nominee.
While endorsing Barletta on Saturday, former Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) said “all indications” state that the former Hazelton mayor is best positioned to beat Shapiro in a general election and assailed Trump’s endorsement of Mastriano.
“I was extremely disappointed when Mr. Trump came out and endorsed Mr. Mastriano,” Marino said. “… Where in the hell is the loyalty? Lou and I were the first congressmen to come out and endorse Trump in his first election. We took a lot of heat about it.” He went on:
My leadership, our leadership, told us when they heard we did this, that our political careers were over … we did the right thing there. I’m just very disappointed in our president … because apparently, the loyalty does not go as far as he says his loyalty does. At the very least, a telephone call as to say why he did what he did but he didn’t.
Barletta is now calling on Republican candidates Dave White and Bill McSwain to drop out of the gubernatorial primary and endorse him. This week, Barletta won endorsements from Melissa Hart and Jake Corman, both of whom dropped out of the race to back him.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) has endorsed Barletta.
Pennsylvania Republican Party chairs told the Washington Examiner that they too are not happy with Trump’s endorsement of Mastriano, worried that he will risk throwing the general election to Shapiro:
Allegheny County Republican Party Chairman Sam DeMarco was stunned when the news hit social media: “I am very disappointed with the president’s decision in picking Mastriano. It’s not exactly going out on a limb supporting someone in the lead three days before the election; it does guarantee him one win in this state on Tuesday,” said DeMarco in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
Kulback, who has an army of volunteers set to work on Tuesday to get voters out, told the Washington Examiner: “Trump’s interference in Pennsylvania is going to cost us the governor’s office in the fall, which, by the way, is very important to hold when you are running for president in 2024, but there is a chance it could also cost us the Senate seat.”
One prominent county chairman, who asked to remain anonymous but has hosted Trump in his county several times and voted for him twice, said, “Maybe Joe Biden’s not the only septuagenarian who should take a competency test?”
An Osage Research poll of 600 swing voters in Pennsylvania shows Mastriano is losing in a head-to-head matchup with Shapiro.
While swing voters, by a three percent margin, say they prefer a Republican to a Democrat for governor, 49 percent said they would vote for Shapiro if Mastriano is the GOP nominee. Mastriano trails in the matchup with just 41 percent.
“This is an unsustainable number for a general election nominee for a party,” the pollsters note. “Mastriano’s image is already upside down with swing voters with only 16 percent having a favorable opinion of Mastriano while already 22 percent have an unfavorable opinion.”
The Pennsylvania GOP gubernatorial primary election is on May 17.