According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the race for the Republican nomination to replace Gov. Tom Wolf (D) remains highly unsettled with too many similar candidates and a lack of one key endorsement that could help one of them break away from the pack.
So far, former president Donald Trump has withheld his endorsement of any of the 14 potential candidates -- with a 15th reportedly waiting in the wings -- who will likely oppose current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in what many in the Keystone State are calling the "Trump primary."
That has led three nominees to hire former Trump aides who might have his ear, and then there are questions about how tightly any candidate will embrace the former president after watching Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) keep his distance before he was elected.
According to the Inquirer's Julia Terruso, "... in Pennsylvania, the candidates are united against Gov. Tom Wolf, whom they’re seeking to replace. Their messages to voters in the opening events signal the race’s loudest refrain may be more against Wolf and his pandemic policies than pro-Trump. Whether Trump endorses a gubernatorial candidate is also unclear."
Pointing out that former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who was endorsed before by Trump only to lose, has built a campaign using the Trump playbook, Terusso reports he has "hired the firm led by Bill Stepien and Justin Clark, who ran Trump’s 2020 campaign. State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman has Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s 2016 campaign manager. [former U.S. Attorney Bill]McSwain hired former Trump campaign aide James Fitzpatrick to run his campaign."
Opinions within the state differ on what a Trump endorsement could do for a candidate after the one for GOP Senate hopeful Sean Parnell blew up after the increased scrutiny led to reports of spousal abuse and his subsequent departure from the race.
According to Pat Poprik, of the Bucks County GOP, "Some will embrace him more, some won’t. It’s [about] each individual’s relationship and if they perceive they can even get the endorsement."
With that endorsement comes questions over whether it will hurt or help, with Westmoreland County GOP chair Bill Bretz admitting, "There is that concern that winning the primary and winning the general election are two distinct events because we are still the demographic minority in Pennsylvania. So we need a candidate [who] can convey our platform but still have the confidence of folks registered as Democrats that they’ll represent them well.”
Pennsylvania GOP strategist Mike Barley explained that he is not surer the Trump nod will hurt, telling the Inquirer, "I don’t know that voters care how close you are with the former president when their prices of goods are through the roof, they can’t find people to work in their businesses. I think you have a frustrated electorate and they’re looking for something different.”
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