Conservative Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is retiring. Two serious Democratic contenders are already in-- Lt. Governor John Fetterman and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Right-of-center Congress members Conor Lamb, Brendan Boyle, Chrissy Houlahan and Madeleine Dean are looking for pathways to the nomination, as are EMILY's List recruit Val Arkoosh, failed right-wing congressional candidate Eugene DePasquale, widely despised Philly Mayor Jim Kenney and state Senator Sharif Street.
A few days ago I mentioned twitter than the Republicans have a violently divided field of contenders and I was immediately besieged by a pacel of hysterical Republicans who I had never seen before, wailing about how the Pennsylvania Republican Party is firmly united behind Trump and that I am an imbecile. Among those considering running are Trumpist congressmen Guy Reschenthaler, Glenn Thompson and Mike Kelly and two Trump-hating former congressmen, Charlie Dent and Ryan Costello. There are another dozen serious would-be contenders, many of them die-hard Trumpists.
This afternoon, reporting for Reuters, Nathan Layne wrote that the party is already in the throes of an internal civil war over Trump. Vicious GOP cancel culture is writing off anyone who fails the litmus test of supporting Trump's delusions about a stolen election. Biden won Pennsylvania 3,459,923 (50.0%) to 3,378,263 (48.8%).
"Interviews with two dozen Republican officials, activists and political analysts," he wrote, "reveal a deep split over strategy in Pennsylvania-- a key battleground that could determine whether Republicans retake the Senate next year. Republicans face a potentially self-destructive dynamic in statewide races: Trump loyalists may well prevail over moderate candidates in party primaries, but they are more likely to lose general campaigns against Democrats by turning off centrist voters. 'If that primary is going to be a race to the extreme right-- and a race to see who is most loyal to Donald Trump-- I guarantee you it will be extremely difficult for the Republican Party to win,' said Gene DiGirolamo, a Republican county commissioner in Bucks County-- a Philadelphia suburb-- and a former state representative."
A growing number of Republican voters are unhappy with the party’s direction, according to a Feb. 18-24 Reuters/Ipsos poll. Nearly half-- 48%-- of self-identified Republicans believe their party “has lost its way,” up 17 percentage points from a similar poll in December. A Reuters review of Pennsylvania state data shows more than 22,000 voters had left the party this year through Feb. 22, compared with fewer than 8,000 Democrats.
Still, many party leaders argue that turning against Trumpism isn’t the way forward. [Neo-fascist] Sean Gale, an attorney and fierce Trump backer who has announced a run for Toomey’s seat, said the party has tried and failed to win elections with centrist candidates.
...Trump’s brash brand of politics will be on display this Saturday in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, when Lauren Boebert-- the gun-toting freshman congresswoman from Colorado-- will address gun rights at a party fundraiser.
Boebert, a fierce Trump backer, has amplified his false election-fraud claims. She’s also boosted ticket sales for the Pennsylvania fundraiser, said Robert Arena, the county party’s executive director.
“The congresswoman is a rising name,” he said.
...Asked about the attempt to censure Toomey, the party’s national Senate campaign organization pointed to comments this week from Senator Rick Scott, its chairman, declaring that the “Republican civil war has been cancelled.”
“Those fanning these flames, in both the media and our own ranks, desire a GOP civil war,” he wrote in a memo. “No, we don’t have time for that.”
The infighting won’t be so easy to wish away, said John Kennedy, a political science professor at West Chester University in Chester County. The increasingly Trumpian base of Republican voters, he said, will make it difficult for any moderate to win Pennsylvania’s party primaries, in which only Republicans vote.
Some analysts and moderate Republicans noted that the party tried nominating Trump-like candidates for Senate and governor in 2018, and they lost by double digits. Others compared the current insurgency to the Tea Party movement that divided Republicans a decade ago, when Tea Party-backed candidates were blamed for party losses in Senate elections.
Howard Merrick, the chairman of the Republican committee in Schuylkill County, a Trump stronghold, said that voters leaving the party are not necessarily just anti-Trump moderates. They also include Trump supporters who are furious with his Republican critics-- and who still believe Trump’s claims that he lost a rigged election.
“There are people who are very, very mad at everything that happened,” he said. “Most are mad at Congress-- those senators like Toomey who have not stood up for Trump.”
Yet Merrick believes the effort to censure Toomey would only further undermine the party. “It hurts us to do this,” he said.
...Many Republicans’ demands for absolute loyalty to Trump worry Ryan Costello, a moderate former Republican congressman and Trump critic who is close to launching a bid for Toomey’s seat.
“They’re demanding absolutism,” Costello said of Trump’s political operation. “If that’s what it takes to get his support, that’s a recipe for general election losses.”