He exposed deception, corruption, and outright theft of the 2020 presidential election, and he’s going to do something about it. He will also fight violent crime, strengthen our borders, protect life, defend the Second Amendment under siege, and help our military and vets. He’s a fighter like few others, and he’s been with me from the start, and now I have an obligation to be with him,” Trump continued.
Mastriano — also associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory — was already ahead in the polls in the tattered primaries, despite being outdone in television spending by candidates such as former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain and businessman David White.
Trump called Mastriano on Friday to inform him of his decision to approve, according to a person familiar with the call.
But the decision came after opposition from some of Trump’s closest advisers and allies, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Trump was skeptical of Mastriano, according to another familiar person, but he liked his lead in the polls and focus on the 2020 election.
I am honored to receive President Trump’s endorsement today. But the honor is not mine. “It’s for the millions of hard-working Pennsylvanians who want their individual liberties restored, for power back to the people, and for their elected leaders to advance the America First – and Pennsylvania First – agenda,” Mastariano said in a statement.
Presumptive Democratic nominee for Governor Josh Shapiro has been promoting Mastariano’s candidacy in ads, believing him to be the easiest Republican candidate to win in the general election. “Shapiro just became the next governor, and I don’t mean it overly,” said a top Pennsylvania Republican aide.
This week, leading Republicans made a last-ditch attempt to prevent Mastariano from winning the party’s nomination in the May 17 primaries. But those efforts apparently failed. Some of the former candidates holding the singles ballot have dropped out, and endorsed former Representative Lou Barletta in recent days, including state Senate Speaker Jake Corman. But the division at the top of the field, combined with Trump’s new endorsement of Mastriano, will likely doom that effort.
“At the end of the day, a Trump endorsement might give you a few points and that might be all you need [in a crowded primary]. A point or two could be all the difference for a candidate going down the sprawl, Brian Natt, the Republican strategist in Pennsylvania, said earlier this month.
Trump’s endorsement of Masteriano could also complicate the state’s Senate primary, too. Trump threw his support behind Mehmet Oz, better known as “Dr. Oz” in another crowded field. But Mastriano sided with Cathy Barnett, another far-right candidate who has similarly risen in the polls. Barnette and Mastriano often campaign together, supporting each other.
Barnett and Oz and hedge financier Dave McCormick were booked at the top of recent polls in the Senate primary, while Lt. John Fetterman appears to be on course to defeat the MP. Conor Lamb and others in the Democratic primary.
Some Republicans close to the former president have argued that Trump’s support for Mastriano could backfire by hurting Oz. Another Republican close to Trump said, “People have been telling the president for a while, and he’s not protecting his investments in Oz” in the Conservative race.
Craig Hoy contributed to this report.