Republican Sean Parnell kicked off his campaign for the US Senate in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, highlighting a tweet from Donald Trump Jr. calling him 100% American solid first.
Several Republicans in the State Congress on Wednesday praised the decision to purge Rep. Liz Cheney (R., Wyo.) Of the House leadership for the sin of exposing former President Donald Trumps’ election lies.
And on Saturday, one of those top lie-spreaders, Rudy Giuliani, travels to Pennsylvania for a fundraiser alongside Senator Doug Mastriano, a potential gubernatorial candidate.
As Pennsylvania Republicans maneuver for nationally watched gubernatorial and Senate races next year, this week shows that Trumps’ influence remains as powerful as ever to the delight of many Republicans who have it. still see them as their leader, and the dismay of others who fear his imprint will cost them. winnable elections with considerable national implications.
I am delighted with Sean Parnell. I am delighted, said Lee Snover, Chairman of the Northampton County Republicans, who described Parnell as Trump’s role model.
She said it meant being a winner, being an actor.
Parnell, a decorated military veteran who headlined a 2020 campaign rally with Trump Jr. and spoke at the GOP convention, actually lost his first campaign, failing in a right-wing congressional district outside of Pittsburgh last year.
It’s an unusual starting point for a statewide race where the electorate will be more democratic. But some GOP insiders see Parnell as one of the top favorites of 2022 anyway, exemplifying the enduring political power of affiliation with Trump and the voters who worship him.
READ MORE: What to watch as Pennsylvania loses Congress seat: The stakes are really high
Like Snover, Rep. Scott Perry (R., PA) also presented the former president as a picture of the GOP’s success when explaining his vote against Cheney. It was not good for a party leader to criticize the person who in 2020 got more votes than any Republican presidential candidate, Perry told Fox Business.
It was a precise but incomplete data point: Trump also helped spur historic Democrat participation. President Joe Biden got the most votes of any presidential candidate.
This is not lost on some Republican strategists who fear that Trump’s grip on the party, his continued embrace of his electoral plots, and his influence with GOP primary voters may bite them in Pennsylvania. Because if it inspires many voters, it also arouses violent reactions, and some Republicans accuse him of having cost them decisive races in the Senate in Georgia.
Consider that 83% of Republicans in Pennsylvania viewed Trump favorably, according to a February survey by Harrisburg-based Susquehanna Polling and Research. Even after Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol, his position in some conservative areas was higher than before his loss. But 85% of Democrats and 61% of Independents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate affiliated with Trump.
It’s a brick wall with a few layers thick, said Susquehanna president Jim Lee, whose clients include GOP candidates. What advantage in the primary becomes a liability in the fall.
Trump will be just one factor next year, and some key political elements are in favor of Republicans. But in races that could shrink to narrow margins, this week has illustrated the potential dilemma.
A weak jobs report and rising inflation have shown warning signs for Democrats, especially as the ruling party is typically hammered in in midterm elections.
But instead, Trump emerged during the week as he settled scores with Cheney and continued to promote conspiracy theories.
Democrats, facing their own competitive Senate primary, see Trump as their supporters’ best motivator.
Loyalty to Donald Trump is the ultimate litmus test for Republicans in Pennsylvania, and within minutes they proved their loyalty to Trump to be more valuable than the truth, Democratic Party spokesman Brendan Welch said after Cheney’s vote.
The character and approach of the Pennsylvanias 2022 GOP candidates, and their willingness to embrace its electoral lies, could have huge ramifications. The next governor could sign or veto stricter voting rules inspired by Trump’s fraud allegations. And the new administration will oversee the 2024 presidential race in a crucial battlefield state.
READ MORE: Pennsylvania Republicans Engage in Culture Wars as Biden Pushes Big Spending
Pennsylvanias’ Senate race, meanwhile, is one of the few that could determine control of the chamber, and the winner would have a vote if there was a repeated attempt to overturn the results of the upcoming presidential elections.
Current Republican Senator Pat Toomey strongly opposed the attempt to dismiss Pennsylvanias’ results and voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial. He had decided earlier not to seek re-election.
Despite some Republicans fears, Trump supporters see an advantage in the way he inspires his supporters. Republican candidates hope to tap into that power.
But Trump’s political approach worked exactly once in Pennsylvania, when he won the state by just 44,000 votes in 2016, breaking a long string of Democratic presidential victories.
He lost by 81,000 votes in 2020, and others who tried to follow his path, including Lou Barletta and Scott Wagner in the 2018 races for the Senate and Governor, suffered serious losses, leading to the Democratic backlash without the compensatory republican wave.
I don’t see any decrease in Trumps’ popularity within the party, York County Republican President Jeff Piccola said last month. What I don’t see is this popularity that is necessarily transferable to other people.
Hours before the launch of the Parnells campaign, 12 GOP county presidents and state lawmakers, including several from deeply conservative regions, signed a letter urging him to run for US House again, saying that the party is expected to unite in the Senate behind Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer. who lives on the main line.
Bartos, who has long-standing ties to the mainstream GOP establishment, posted digital ads this week claiming Parnell sided with the Liberals and a link to a 2016 tweet in which Parnell said Trump should post its tax returns tacitly acknowledging the importance of the base of presidents.
Parnell won early support from Reps. Mike Kelly and Guy Reschenthaler, who wrote on Friday that it would be crucial to pick a Republican candidate who wouldn’t back down and that the GOP can’t send another career politician, socialite or multi-millionaire offline at the Senate.
Parnell never conceded in his 2020 congressional run, despite losing more than 2 percentage points to Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb. He co-led a lawsuit with Kelly seeking to deprive 2.6 million Pennsylvanians by rejecting all state mail-in ballots in a bid to keep Trump in power.
READ MORE: Headphones are back. Here’s what lawmakers want Congress to spend money on in Pennsylvania and South Jersey
Still, Parnells’ team says he will be more than a Trump sidekick. His three-and-a-half-minute launch video never mentioned the president, focused heavily on his background as an Army Ranger who won a Bronze Star for his bravery and a Purple Heart in Afghanistan, and called for the unification of the country.
Are we going to cherish our freedoms? Or will we submit to a government that tells us how to live, what to lead, who to worship and what to think? Parnell said.
There is still plenty of time before the primary in the next few years, new candidates could emerge and other issues could arise as the 2020 election and the Capitol Riot move further into the past.
But we don’t know who these new candidates might be. The next person who seems likely to enter the race is Carla Sands, former Trump ambassador to Denmark, who Republicans who have met with her say privately touted her ability to win her approval.
And it seems foolish to expect Trump to step into the background.
Trump won that state and he’s won it twice, Snover said. He also won it in 2020.
He did not do it. But many Republicans still see it as a key to victory.
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