Pennsylvania takes a shot in the arm from Trump

US Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz and former President Donald Trump (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

GREENSBURG, Pa. — In January of last year, New York disco group Village People breathed a sigh of relief when President Donald Trump left office, saying Billboard that the “misuse” of their music by the former president “is finally over”. But now, more than a year after leaving the White House, Trump has found that the band’s “YMCA” is still a crowd pleaser at its rallies, rain or shine.

His recent campaign event at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds in Greensburg, Pennsylvania was no exception. “What time !” the former president told a large crowd of his supporters Friday night, most of whom were dressed head-to-toe in mud-splattered Trump gear after waiting hours to hear him speak. “We’re going to have fun, Pennsylvania, we’re going to have fun.”

Rally participants navigated mud puddles, a soggy field of parked cars and a maze of “Get Your Trump Gear Here!” pop-up stands selling trinkets splashed with MAGA nicknames: “Deplorable Damn Right” read one sticker, “The Final Variant is Called Communism” read another. Closer to the arena was a giant jumbotron projecting the live stream of Trump’s “official” donors – $25 from Joe A. from Mississippi, $45 from Elizabeth W. from Arkansas, $500 from Connie M. Ohio – its electric blue screen contrasting against the backdrop of dark, cloudy Friday evening skies.

As soon as Trump took the stage, he launched into a free-wheeling speech about inflation – “I got gas up to $1.87 a gallon!” – the war in Ukraine – “when I was there, [Putin] never would have done it” – the Russian investigation – “It was a bogus job of scam” – and even JD Vance, who last week won the Republican primary for the United States Senate in Ohio – “C is a super celebrity!

(Photo by Audrey Fahlberg)

Anyone who arrived in the middle of Trump’s speech had a hard time understanding what most reporters thought was the main purpose of the event: to build support for Dr. Mehmet Oz, Trump’s hand-picked candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in front of the Republican. Primary May 17.

Just 45 minutes into his speech, Trump finally cut to the chase. “His show is awesome,” Trump said of the famed heart surgeon who recently canceled The Dr Oz Show in his bid to succeed retired GOP Sen. Pat Toomey. “He is in the rooms of all these women and tells them the good and the bad.” Trump then invited Oz onstage, where he gave a vague one-minute speech about the failures of the Biden administration before allowing Trump to speak again. “The only thing Joe Biden has rebuilt better is the Republican Party,” Oz said.

Trump’s shoutout was long overdue: Oz and his only real Republican challenger, David McCormick, spent months before the primary fooling around with the former president at his Palm Beach resort, Mar-a-Lago, in order to obtain his approval. (The New York Times reported that McCormick’s wife, Dina Powell McCormick, showed Trump a photo of Oz next to people wearing full head coverings during a private meeting to highlight Oz’s Turkish-American heritage and Muslim upbringing . McCormick denied the allegations.)

As McCormick now knows full well, failure to win Trump’s approval can come at a cost. If you win his endorsement, as Oz did in early April, you could experience a boost in the polls, like Vance did in the days leading up to the Ohio Senate primary last week. (Oz now leads McCormick by about 2 points, according to RealClearPolitics’ polls average.) But not getting approval puts you at risk of being ridiculed by the former president for trying.

Since Friday, McCormick now falls into the second camp. “If anybody was within 200 miles of me, they hired them,” Trump said of McCormick, the former Bridgewater CEO and George W. Bush administration treasury official, whose the campaign hired a handful of high-level Trump staffers, including Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller. – in a failed attempt to curry favor with the former president. On Friday night, Trump told the crowd that McCormick “may be a nice guy” but is “totally controlled” by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and just isn’t “MAGA” enough. “to do the trick.

Trump’s main concern was McCormick’s criticism of the former president’s actions that led to the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. “He really wanted my approval, but I couldn’t do it,” added Trump. “David has been very strong against me on many occasions, that’s before he showed up. All of a sudden he said, ‘Boy, I like this guy a lot.’

McCormick responded to the rally with a signature publicity blitz ridiculing Oz for kissing his Hollywood star and slamming him for abortion-related comments he made years ago.

One rally goer, Rick DeLauro, finds any attempt to portray Oz as a Hollywood liberal unconvincing. “When the media shows clips of Dr. Oz in Hollywood years ago, it doesn’t do justice to his current knowledge base,” he said. I think when President Trump endorsed it, that’s really all I needed. He and his wife said they were looking forward to voting for Oz in next week’s Republican primary, although they readily admitted they were much more excited to see Trump than Oz. “We love President Trump and we just wanted to show our patriotism,” Kate DeLauro said.

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is also vying for the seat of Toomey, a 6-foot-8 former mayor of a steel town who leads the Democratic field in both fundraising and polls. . A Franklin & Marshall survey released Thursday, Fetterman has a 39-point lead over his nearest challenger, Democratic Rep. Conor Lamb (53-14%), with the rest of the Democratic candidates barely registering in the polls.

“Whatever the opposite of the MAGA movement is on the Republican side, John Fetterman embodies it on the Democratic side,” Christopher Nicholas, a Pennsylvania-based Republican consultant, said of Fetterman, who regularly wears jeans and construction boots. during his campaign events.

But Fetterman’s popular popularity among Democratic primary voters and statewide recognition of his name as lieutenant governor do not guarantee he will achieve victory in the general election. “No matter who wins on the Republican side, I think they’ll have a better chance of beating Fetterman, because I just don’t think the whole state likes him,” Nicholas said.

Republicans are hoping rising crime, soaring inflation and low Biden approval ratings will help the GOP keep Toomey’s seat in Republican hands. But right now, election forecasters say it’s too early to tell. Both Sabato’s Crystal Ball and the Bake the political report assess the general election race as a draw.

First comes next Tuesday’s primary, in which Oz hopes to win support from rally participants like John Keane, who see Trump’s support as a determining factor in the race. “I have a lot of friends who promoted Dr. Oz, and I was a little hesitant at first,” Keane, of Upper St. Claire, Pennsylvania, said in an interview after the rally. “But at this point, I’m more likely to support Dr. Oz, mainly because of Trump’s endorsement.”

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