The chickens have come home to roost for Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. After he stuck his nose in the state’s Republican primary process last May against the guidance of his most loyal advisors, many of his once-devoted followers now say they are done with the former president.
Trump backed far-right nationalist Doug Mastriano for governor and celebrity heart surgeon Dr. Mehmet Oz for US Senate in this state over much more logical choices — in Oz’s case, businessman and politician David McCormick. And both lost to Democrats on Tuesday.
Their losses had a ripple effect down-ballot, costing the Republicans not just a US Senate seat they once held as well as the governor’s office, but also three congressional seats in the House of Representatives that were up for grabs plus the majority in the state house.
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Former Trump senior advisor David Urban — whose expertise in state politics was invaluable in his victory in the state six years ago — said everyone is telling him it is time for the former president to step aside.
“If you’re a Republican in Pennsylvania and you look at Donald Trump’s big footing of the people in Pennsylvania and the implosion of his candidates in Pennsylvania, you’re pretty upset,” said Urban, a Washington-based strategist who grew up in Beaver County, Penn.
Urban said his phone has been ringing all week with county chairs and committee people who tell him they’ve had it with Trump.
“They said ‘Look, we’re done. We’re done with him. He cost us this election and we’re done.’”
He’s not the only one. All day Wednesday my phone lit up with calls and emails from voters who expressed the exact same frustration. One woman said she saw the writing on the wall last weekend when Trump decided to take a swipe at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — calling him “Ron DeSanctimonious” — while he campaigned for Oz and Mastriano in Pennsylvania.
And when Trump went on to tease that he was going to announce “something big” next week (presumably his run for president in 2024), she knew it would hurt Oz on Election Day.
“I had a pit of my stomach moment as I watched the rally,” said the former Trump fan, who did not want to be named. “It is hard to quit Trump — I voted for him twice enthusiastically.” But, “at this juncture I think we have to move forward to a new generation of leaders.”
Hearing his bragging and big talk in the final days before the election, voters across the US feared certain Trump-backed candidates would be beholden to him or continue his rhetoric of election denial and either voted Democrat or left the top of the ticket blank despite their dislike of President Biden.
Another round of Trumpism was a bridge too far for them. They were exhausted.
JD Vance, who won a US Senate seat in Ohio, is the only high-profile Trump-backed candidate who prevailed Tuesday night. Meanwhile, Trump’s choice of candidates for Senate in Georgia, Arizona and New Hampshire could cost the Republicans control of the upper chamber of Congress, which they were expected to clinch. Even his gubernatorial pick in Michigan, Tudor Dixon, lost to incumbent Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, who was unpopular for her lockdown policies during the pandemic, which were among the strictest in the US.
It all adds up to a disaster for Trump. A Pennsylvania father of two grown men of voting age told me all three of them are done with him after years of loyal support.
“Trump needs to disappear,” said the voter who asked not to be named. “He got us Oz over McCormick in the primary who would have won by at least by five points. In fact, most of the failures in last night’s midterms tie back to Trump.”
The communications professional said he still liked Trump’s policies and has long managed to overlook his crassness. “Then he made the DeSantis comment and we are all done in our family with him. It is becoming very clear it’s about Trump first, not the conservative movement.”
David La Torre — a Pennsylvania-based Republican strategist — said Tuesday’s results were a reckoning. “The short-lived era of Trump is over. We’ve allowed this one individual, who only won our state by 40,000 votes in 2016, to dominate our politics, and it’s absolutely absurd,” he said.
Trump’s hint that he would announce a third run for president proves he didn’t understand that, while voters still liked him and loved his policies, they are now looking toward the future rather than the past. This is especially true after a summer when the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida home, in search of classified documents he allegedly took from the White House.
Conservative strategist Dave Myhal is the last person you’d expect to dump Trump. Born and raised in the Mahoning Valley of Ohio — the epicenter of the political earthquake that turned a former working-class Democrat stronghold Republican in 2016 — Myhal was once devoted to the ex-president.
Myhal said he’s donated more than $10,000 of his own money to Trump, voted for him twice and worked to help him get elected in Ohio in 2016 and 2020.
But after Tuesday he is done, and looking toward other rising stars of the Republican party like Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia.
“The era of Trump is over,” Myhal told me bluntly.
“It is time for Trump to retire. I see golf courses and a rocking chair in his future. We appreciate the time he fought in the war against the woke, but it will be finished by Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott and Glenn Youngkin.”
Salena Zito is the author of “The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics.”