Former President Donald Trump privately trashed Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano before changing his mind last week and endorsing his gubernatorial campaign, throwing the state's Republican Party into turmoil.
The former president was frustrated that Mastriano was unable to make good on his promise to conduct a 2020 election audit, but he ultimately backed the right-wing legislator because he pledged to make Trump's election loss a top priority if he was elected governor -- which many Republicans doubt he will be, reported Politico.
“The biggest reason why he did it was he said, ‘Mastriano was there for me and I need to be there for him,’” said one person close to Trump.
Republicans are worried that Mastriano's focus on 2020 will cost them a shot at retaking the governor's mansion, and they're concerned that would ultimately hurt Trump and other GOP candidates in 2024.
“He endorsed someone who is going to be very difficult to elect," said Rick Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator. "I’ve heard from so many people who’ve said to me, ‘He obviously isn’t running for president,' and their rationale is, ‘If he actually cared about winning the presidency, he would not want a Democratic governor or Democratic secretary of state to do what they did two years ago.’”
Trump also backed former TV talk show host Mehmet Oz, who's locked in a too-close-to-call Senate primary with hedge fund manager David McCormick, but Republicans are also doubtful of his chances for winning in November.
“I’m not very happy with his involvement in local races and endorsements,” said Rob Gleason, former chair of the Pennsylvania GOP. “He doesn’t live in Pennsylvania. His name isn’t on the ballot. He might be wearing out his welcome.”
Local party leaders were frustrated by Trump's last-minute endorsement, saying they already had strategies in place for other candidates they felt were more electable, and they said the former president squandered political capital with his picks.
“The question here is, was the juice worth the squeeze? I think no,” said one prominent Republican involved in the governor’s race. “His standing and reputation — it took a big, big hit with both Oz and Mastriano [endorsements]. There is a third of the electorate that loves the endorsements, but there’s a great number of Republicans that don’t.”