Pennsylvania's GOP primaries are setting the stage for Trump to steal the 2024 election -- here's how
Donald Trump appears at a rally in Scranton, Pennsylvania (Fox News/screen grab)

Republican candidates are embracing Donald Trump's election lies in hopes of winning his endorsement.

Pennsylvania will elect a new governor and U.S. senator next year, and the twice-impeached one-term president has made clear that his crucial endorsement will require Republicans to conduct their own Arizona-style "audit" of his loss in their state, according to The Bulwark's Amanda Carpenter.

"Never mind that the state already conducted a post-election audit that found 'strong evidence of an accurate count,'" Carpenter wrote.

"The difference here is that Trump and his allies want Republican officials to conduct the audit and use handpicked firms to evaluate the ballots and voting machines," she added. "The Grand Canyon State's election is being audited by the fumbling and inept 'Cyber Ninjas'; one could expect the Keystone State's election to be reviewed by the Keystone Kops."

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, a relative political newcomer who won a special election in 2019, says Trump personally asked him to run for governor after working alongside Rudy Giuliani to roll back Pennsylvania's presidential election results, and he's pushing the idea of a partisan audit to appease the ex-president.

"So, for the sake of our constitutional republic, and for the sake of people's peace of mind, let's just do it," Mastriano told Wall Street Journal. "Let's pick a few counties and put people's minds at rest."

Another GOP gubernatorial candidate, four-term former congressman Lou Barletta, has been trying to straddle the middle of the road by questioning the validity of the election results but stopping short of a partisan audit.

"Who can say for certain how much the election was changed to the difference that would have made?" Barletta said. "Nobody."

Montgomery County GOP chair Joe Gale, who's also running for governor, has been pushing election conspiracy theories and voted against certifying the result from his own county, and those election fraud lies are emerging as a crucial issue in the GOP primary for the seat being vacated by Sen. Pat Toomey.

"What's it all mean?" Carpenter wrote. "Considering Pennsylvania's role in electing presidential candidates, maybe a lot."

A Trump ally in the Pennsylvania governor's mansion could flip the state in his favor should the twice-impeached president run again in 2024, and a GOP Senate majority could potentially block the certification of a Democratic winner, as House Republicans tried to do on Jan. 6.

"It's all theoretical of course, but the 2020 election could have gone much differently if only a few more Trump enablers were in the right places," Carpenter wrote. "And it sure seems like plenty of Pennsylvania Republicans are auditioning for just such a role — not to represent Pennsylvania's interests but to represent Donald Trump's. If MAGA Republicans learned anything by losing the 2020 presidential election, it's that there might be ways to install Trump as president other than by earning the most votes.