HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA) – It’s a question that until recently would have been unthinkable: Will Republican candidates for public office want Donald Trump’s endorsement in 2024?
For half a decade, Republicans defied the former president at their peril. They often lost in primaries to Trump-backed candidates.
And in the 2022 Pennsylvania primary — though not across America — Trump’s approval was still the key to a primary victory. Partisans and independent analysts largely agreed that Doug Mastriano cemented his gubernatorial nomination and Trump’s support allowed Mehmet Oz to secure his victory over David McCormick.
But after that?
“In Pennsylvania, the Trump effect played out like this: he helped you in a primary, but not necessarily in a general election,” said Robert Costa, election and campaign correspondent for CBS News.
In the general election, Oz lost and Mastriano was crushed. This is a corollary to what Costa said about the “Trump Effect.”
“The more Trumpy the candidate was on the GOP side, the less vote share they got” in the general election, said Christopher Nicholas, a veteran GOP adviser.
Oz, who trailed John Fetterman by double digits in some midsummer polls, appeared to be closing the gap after a shaky debate performance from Fetterman, who was recovering from a stroke, and when he positioned himself as a consensus-building centrist. Mastriano never did a similar shoot.
Then Trump campaigned with both of them in Pennsylvania the weekend before the election.
“Oz had the burden of Trump on his shoulders by the end of the campaign,” Costa said.
Still, at least the campaigns of Oz and Mastriano survived a general election. So doesn’t a Trump endorsement still help?
“I think we need to re-examine the word ‘aid’ when almost all of his spring-backed candidates lost in November,” said Brit Crampsie, a Democratic strategist.
“As a Republican, I think we need to find a way to please our base without making it impossible to win the general election,” Nicholas said.
But Nicholas said Democrats face similar dilemmas on a smaller scale too.
“Democrats don’t necessarily want to be the party of the AOC, outside of some metropolitan areas,” Nicholas said, referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic congresswoman from Queens, New York, who is very popular with liberals but whom Republicans have a radical socialist stamped.