Trump Effect: Pa. GOP Won’t Pick Senate Candidate Over Fears of Going Against Former President


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The Pennsylvania Republican Party has a bit of a dilemma ahead of their party’s primary in the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey: It’s not sure yet who to support.

The party wants to throw its weight behind a candidate, but officials are reportedly holding off doing so out of fear they may pick someone who ultimately won’t be supported by former President Donald Trump.

According to Reuters:

Republicans in Pennsylvania chose Saturday not to endorse a primary candidate in one of the most closely watched U.S. Senate races in the country, amid concerns they could back a candidate in a crowded field who might put them at odds with Donald Trump.

The endorsement of the state committee is widely considered the early prize of primary season, catapulting its recipient to the general election. This year, the party emerges from its winter meeting less unified ahead of a wide-open primary season.

Trump has not said whether he will back any of the current candidates in the contest that could decide control of Congress in November’s midterm elections.


To that point, Trump himself has a bit of dilemma, as well, given the GOP candidates running for Toomey’s seat.

“Among the Republicans vying to replace Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who is retiring, are several with ties to the former president: Carla Sands, his former ambassador to Denmark; his friend the celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz; and hedge fund CEO David McCormick, whose wife served in the Trump administration,” Reuters reported.

When the state GOP committee, made up of more than 300 state and local officials, met on Saturday, they collectively voted against endorsing a particular Senate candidate. In addition, members also did not endorse a GOP candidate in the “equally crowded governor’s race,” Reuters added, citing two sources who were at the closed-door meeting.

The sources said that a voice vote was held and that there wasn’t any need for an actual roll call.

In a series of interviews, Reuters reported that 25 state party committee members and GOP officials in the state said they were hesitant to back any particular candidate for the time being, citing “both the large field of 12 hopefuls and the possibility that Trump might eventually endorse a different contender,” the report said.

“This was no surprise. Committee members want the candidates to stand on their own and let the voters decide,” said a top GOP official who attended the meeting and was present for the vote. “Now, everyone will be working for the Trump endorsement and the best way to get that endorsement is to show you can win.”

According to the report, in the preceding weeks ahead of Saturday’s meeting, regional GOP caucuses have held straw polls to gauge support for the field of candidates, with real estate developer Jeff Bartos gaining most of the party’s support though he trails in public polls.


Meanwhile, last month the state Democratic Party committee also could not decide on a single candidate, though U.S. Rep. Connor Lamb got the overwhelming majority of votes, outpacing Dem rivals Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, polling results reviewed by Reuters showed.

Democrat rules require a candidate to earn around two-thirds of votes in order to get the state committee’s backing, while Republicans just require a candidate to earn a simple majority.

Trump has been influential in elections since leaving office, raising tens of millions of dollars for his super PAC war chest and backing several candidates ahead of the spring primaries.

Many of those candidates are running to primary GOP congressional members who voted to impeach him last year, including Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who is running for reelection, and Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, who is not.