Trump Made a Bad Call in Pennsylvania’s Senate Race 

Tens of thousands of Trump flags still fly around the commonwealth of Pennsylvania. For obvious reasons, supporting Trump is a shibboleth for patriotism in our state. He restored a Republican Party for average Americans and fought hard to give rust belt voters their country back. He accomplished more, against more hysterical resistance from the Left, than any president in my lifetime.  

When Trump held a rally near my home in southwestern Pennsylvania, the number of attendees far exceeded our town’s population. But for nearly all those with whom I spoke among the crowd, their political activism didn’t begin with Trump. It began years earlier, with caring about their neighbors’ jobs and their military’s honor. Building a future for their kids. Keeping the spirit and faith of this country alive. In short, they were the Republican grassroots, and always had been.  

These are the same people who have expressed confusion and bitterness about Trump’s recent endorsement of Mehmet Oz in the GOP Senate primary. Oz is a longtime progressive with no moral compass or self-reflection—his mind, completely programmed by television, merely parrots the ideological fads of the month. He’s shilled transgender surgery for kids, personally offshored jobs and material production to China, and publicly trashed both the pro-life movement and gun owners. Steve Bannon called him “the anti-MAGA candidate.”  

Post-endorsement polls will likely reflect, at most, a very small bump for Oz. Pennsylvania Republicans are not lemmings who wait for Trump’s endorsement before every vote. No candidate with Oz’s deep history of left-wing views can win a GOP primary here.  

It’s painfully obvious to Trump supporters across the state that this was a bad call. It’s not his first and it won’t be his last. When “endorsement consultants” are being paid six figure salaries just to “put in a good word at Mar-a-Lago,” we’re no longer in the realm of grassroots populism. Sometimes Trumpworld churns out a great endorsement—like the recent nod to J.D. Vance for Senate in Ohio—but not always. One of Trump’s other celebrity endorsements, Herschel Walker, is such a weak candidate that he won’t even campaign for fear of further multiplying his gaffes.  

What’s more damaging than Trump endorsing a left-wing candidate is when conservatives refuse to speak out against it. 

In Tennessee, when Trump endorsed Biden ally Morgan Ortagus for Congress in the 5th Congressional District, the conservative grassroots came out in force to support conservative activist Robby Starbuck instead. Ned Ryun’s recent article approving the Dr. Oz endorsement does the opposite. Ryun argues “there are no credible MAGA candidates in the Pennsylvania Senate race” and that voters should hold their nose for Oz, because Pennsylvania is incapable of producing a “conservative rockstar.” This is simply false.  

As a precursor to any criticism, I should clarify that I’ve always deeply respected Ryun as a conservative commentator and leader. He’s been calling balls and strikes since before I was playing the game. In this cycle he’s already backed Robby Starbuck and J.D. Vance, so he’s not just a Trump follower. He’s got integrity and infuriates all the right people. But just like with Trump, I can respect him and respectfully point out where he’s mistaken.  

Why did Trump need to endorse any candidate in Pennsylvania? Why not just let Pennsylvanians decide? All the candidates’ platforms and records are an open book. We don’t need Trump to tell us the best candidate. And even if there were some truly compelling reason to endorse a candidate—like beating open-borders candidate Dave McCormick—why not endorse a candidate with more serious MAGA credentials? Kathy Barnette, for example, has spent the last 10 years being as consistently conservative as McCormick has been liberal, and has names like Doug Mastriano and General Michael Flynn on her list of endorsements. Her name recognition is nowhere near Oz’s, but MAGA isn’t about aligning with the rich and famous.  

At least, it shouldn’t be. What’s happening with Oz here in Pennsylvania is a microcosm of where we are as a movement. Trump is human, and will not always be surrounded by patriotic advisors with the people’s best interests at heart. That’s why we need to get loud every time he weighs in with an endorsement that doesn’t make sense. Part of supporting Trump is making him listen.

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About Andrew Cuff

Andrew Cuff is communications director of Knight Takes Rook, a political agency to disrupt the status quo. He lives in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter @AndrewJCuff.

Photo: Jason Davis/Getty Images for Pandora