Report: "Agitated" Trump reluctant to endorse more candidates after Oz underperforms in Pennsylvania

AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

He’s probably going to go for two to two in his Pennsylvania endorsements this year. But the populist politics of those primaries was so rough that it might send him into temporary retirement as a kingmaker anyway.


Steve Kornacki is studying the outstanding votes in PA and thinks Mehmet Oz is likely to defeat Dave McCormick in the end. It’s not a sure thing, as they’re separated by just 1,300 votes and some of the precincts yet to be tallied are in McCormick country. We’re headed for a recount either way. But if you had to bet, you’d bet on Oz holding the lead when the recount begins:

That would be a big win for Trump to complement his somewhat smaller win in the gubernatorial race with Doug Mastriano, who almost certainly would have prevailed even without Trump’s endorsement. You would think Trump would want to parlay that success into more success in other states by doubling down on endorsing. Instead he’s backing away, per CNN. How come?

I think it boils down to the fact that he’s making more enemies than friends by trying to pick winners. And even when he picks correctly, his candidates aren’t running up the score.

One of those allies described Trump as “agitated” by the uncertain outcome in the Keystone State primary, where his endorsement of celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz failed to translate into a decisive win against former hedge fund manager David McCormick. As of Thursday morning, the race remains tight and appears likely to head to an automatic recount as required by Pennsylvania law when the vote margin falls below 0.5%.

“This is not how he expected this to go,” said one of the advisers. “If Oz loses, it puts him in an awkward spot because he absolutely trashed David McCormick at his rally and pissed off quite a few allies who never thought he should have endorsed Oz.”…

A loss for Oz in Pennsylvania would not only add another blot to Trump’s endorsement record — even as he claimed Wednesday to have had a “spectacular” primary night — but advisers say it will also make the former President reluctant to wade into other contentious primaries in Alabama, Arizona and Missouri unless and until a clear front-runner emerges.


I posted this last night but it’s worth looking at again. Trump saved J.D. Vance and Oz from electoral oblivion but none of his guys is putting up the sort of margins you might expect in a party that’s supposed to function like a monarchy:

Don’t forget that he’s on track for the most humiliating primary loss of his political career on Tuesday night as well. “He does not want August to be a repeat of May,” one Trump advisor told CNN, referring to the hotly contested Republican primaries in Arizona and Missouri. Trump may end up doing there what he did in Mastriano’s race, sitting back until a clear frontrunner emerges, endorsing that person, then taking credit when the frontrunner wins.

Although there may be other unexpected embarrassments en route:

Trump un-endorsed Brooks two months ago, supposedly because Brooks wasn’t enthusiastic enough about “stopping the steal” but truthfully because Brooks seemed to be fading in the three-way primary and Trump didn’t want the stink of “loser” on him. Suddenly Brooks is back in play, edging past Michael Durant. What does Trump do now? He can’t re-endorse Brooks. But if he endorses Britt and Brooks wins anyway, it’ll be another humiliation.


The real reason Trump is gun-shy about endorsements after Pennsylvania, I suspect, is that the populist waters there got too choppy even for him. His endorsement are bizarre when taken together — in the Senate race, the celebrity centrist Oz, in the gubernatorial race, the bombthrowing insurrectionist Mastriano. The Oz endorsement earned him some hard feelings among MAGA types who thought he should have endorsed the true populist, Kathy Barnette. And the Mastriano endorsement earned him some hard feelings among Pennsylvania’s Republican establishment, less because Mastriano is a crank who doesn’t belong in high office than because Mastriano is probably — probably — unelectable. State GOPers are seething:

The endorsement stung not only some of his own aides and allies — who warned him about Mastriano’s electability issues — it also roiled a large swath of influential lawmakers and party officials in the state who now say Trump’s endorsement could end up damaging his own 2024 prospects in Pennsylvania, in the event he runs again.

“He’s alienated a lot of people on these endorsements. I guess the old saying in politics is that it’s better to be kingmaker than king. He just looks at who’s ahead in the polls and goes with that,” said former Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Tom Marino. “I’m very disappointed. Pissed off, to tell the truth.”…

“He endorsed someone who is going to be very difficult to elect. I’ve heard from so many people who’ve said to me, ‘He obviously isn’t running for president,’” said former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who had backed Corman. “And their rationale is, ‘If he actually cared about winning the presidency, he would not want a Democratic governor or Democratic secretary of state to do what they did two years ago.’”


It’s an open question whether Oz is electable, never mind Mastriano. Among him, McCormick, and Barnette, his unfavorable numbers among Republicans are easily the highest of the three. And he’s an especially bad match-up for the burly left-wing populist John Fetterman, who’s running on pure blue-collar Pennsylvania authenticity. A celebrity carpetbagger like Oz may have more trouble than Republicans typically do winning rural voters this time. And suspicions about his centrism may keep MAGA voters at home.

If Fetterman tops Oz and Mastriano goes belly-up, as expected, Trump can and will plausibly be blamed for having helped turn both of those seats blue. No wonder he’s not keen to wade into other races, then. When the grassroots is mad at you for your endorsements and the establishment is mad at you for your endorsements, it’s hard to call your endorsement slate a success.

As further evidence of how hard it’s been to navigate the populist currents in Pennsylvania these past two weeks, here’s Sean Hannity last night extending his feud with Barnette.

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