Politico

Tonight, a host of Pennsylvania Republicans are praying Trump gives them a rose.


It’s The Bachelor meets the campaign trail.

A group of Republicans running in the Pennsylvania primary for governor are heading to the town of Greensburg on Friday with hopes that former President Donald Trump will give them the final rose.

Former Rep. Lou Barletta, state Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, and businessman David White are all expected to be in attendance despite none having been listed on the lineup of speakers in the pre-rally program, they and their camps confirmed. State Sen. Doug Mastriano was reportedly invited, but attempts to reach his team were unsuccessful.

It’s a chance for the gubernatorial candidates to meet conservative voters and celebrate the MAGA movement they have all embraced. But it’s also the latest in a series of steps each has taken to be endorsed by Trump — a process that has underscored just how instrumental his backing remains, and how much candidates are willing to endure in order to secure it. Prior to showing up at the rally, those aspiring to be Pennsylvania’s next governor have traveled to Mar-a-Lago, hired Trumpworld consultants, and claimed the mantle of “America First.”

“At the end of the day, a Trump endorsement could get you a few points and that might be all you need [in a crowded primary]. A point or two could be all the difference for a candidate coming down the stretch,” said Brian Nutt, a Republican strategist in Pennsylvania.

Tonight’s rally in western Pennsylvania is meant to drum up support for Trump’s endorsed candidate for Senate, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz.

There is speculation over whether or not Trump will make a surprise endorsement on stage in the Republican primary for governor. But one person close to Trump said they do not expect that to happen as it would overshadow his boost for Oz, who is head-to-head in polls with former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick.

That was echoed by radio host John Fredericks, who said he does not expect any surprises tonight.

“Look, it could happen next week. But he’s certainly not going to do this on the fly, it’s too big,” Fredericks said. “He’s just not going to get up and endorse somebody cold. If they decide to do that, they’re going to put a whole media push behind it, but I certainly don’t see it tonight.”

A spokesperson for Trump said there was nothing to announce or share about a gubernatorial endorsement.

Trump has made endorsements in races across the country, and his pick of Oz has been controversial within Trumpworld. But so far he has not weighed in on the crowded Republican primary field for governor. Some conservatives in the state said Trump should make a move sooner rather than later, as there are increasing concerns that if the frontrunner Mastriano wins, then the GOP will sacrifice a shot at the governor’s mansion.

Mastriano is best known for his work on efforts to overturn the 2020 election and recently appeared at an event promoting Q-Anon conspiracies.


“Doug Mastriano winning would make it more challenging for Republicans to pick up an open seat given the controversial nature of some of his comments,” said a Republican familiar with the race.

Recently, the current Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who is running unopposed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, launched an ad that appeared aimed at boosting Mastriano in the GOP primary — a sign that he sees him as the weakest potential Republican opponent.

“There’s a belief that his attendance in Washington on Jan. 6 will derail his campaign,” said Nutt. “It doesn’t appear he did anything wrong, but in politics and in life, a picture is worth a thousand words and those images will be used against him. We should be talking about gas prices, the cost of goods, and people who are out of work. It becomes a distraction.”

While Trump has not endorsed in the gubernatorial race, he has made clear he is no fan of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain, who he has called a “coward” for failing to act on his false claims of election fraud. But so far, no clear favorite has emerged among other Republicans running for governor even though they’re all eager to show ties to the former president. White, Barletta, and Corman have all been spotted recently at Mar-a-Lago.

“Some candidates bother him. I know him. He knows me. I know what he expects. He wants to see you working hard. He wants to see that you have a chance to win. So I don’t need to make my case to him,” Barletta said in an interview. The former congressman recently held a fundraiser at Trump’s club, at which, he said, Trump shared nice words about him with the crowd and brought his wife a hat.

In the most recent poll from Franklin and Marshall College, Mastriano leads among Republican voters with 20 percent support, followed by McSwain with 12 percent, Barletta with 11 percent, and White with 8 percent. Still, a large percentage of Republican voters — 34 percent — say they’re undecided.

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