GOP Insiders Focused on McSwain to Exit PA Gov Race

GOP Insiders Focused on McSwain to Exit PA Gov Race
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Efforts among Republican insiders to consolidate the party’s gubernatorial candidates competing against its front-runner, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who holds a double-digit lead in the RealClear polling average, were primarily focused on convincing former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain to drop out of the race, along with state Sen. Jake Corman. Sources familiar with the matter say that the insiders also approached Dave White, but that White was unmovable.

McSwain, on the other hand, appeared open to the idea.

“There have been points where McSwain and people around him have dabbled in the idea that he should drop out,” said a political operative close to the Corman campaign familiar with efforts to convince both White and McSwain to end their campaigns. “They participated in the idea that people need to drop out and there’s some notion from them that [former congressman] Lou Barletta may have a better shot. Ultimately, what they have not done, though, is come to the reality that Donald Trump completely ended McSwain’s campaign with his anti-endorsement.”

Corman announced yesterday that he was ending his campaign and endorsed Barletta for governor.

Multiple phone calls have taken place in recent weeks between candidates Barletta, McSwain, and White, members of their campaign staffs, and various Republican caucus figures, according to multiple sources. While the candidates have not spoken together on the same call, each has voiced support for the idea that the party must unify around a single candidate to defeat Mastriano. None, though, is willing to concede that anyone other than himself should be that person.

A recent poll from Osage Research showing Mastriano losing 23% of swing Republicans to presumptive Democratic nominee for governor Josh Shapiro has caused a panic within the party. Some party officials are openly criticizing Mastriano for what they see as his extreme views.

“Our concern is that because Mastriano polls so poorly against Shapiro, once key messages are shared about him, whether it be wanting to get rid of HIPPA during COVID, or wanting to re-register voters, or his Gettysburg hearing and choosing not to put people under oath, or the fact that he stood by his running mate Teddy Daniels despite all the problems he has, he will lose handily,” Sam DeMarco, Allegheny County GOP chairman, said in a phone interview. “From a judgement perspective, I just don’t believe that he would ever be ready to be governor.”

Many GOP caucus chairs and Corman have, consequently, tried to get both McSwain and White to coalesce around Barletta.

McSwain spokeswoman Rachel Trip said in response to a request for comment on this article, “Bill McSwain is committed to staying in the race and looks forward to a successful week of campaigning and victory on Tuesday.”

“Dave White was recalcitrant” when pressed to drop out, according to another source familiar with the situation.

“I’d say Dave White has been obstinate,” the source close to the Corman campaign also said.

White apparently rejects recent polls showing him to running in fourth place. He cites internal polling done by the firm McLaughlin & Associates that apparently puts him in second, according to the source.

“In both our poll and other polls, Dave and Lou are within the margin of error,” said a person close to the White campaign. “It’s a statistical tie for second place.”

The person said that the campaign’s internal poll has “Mastriano at 30, Dave at 15.3, Lou at 15, McSwain at 11.5,” and all others in single digits.

So, the key focus of the last-ditch effort to winnow the field and keep Mastriano from becoming the party’s nominee became McSwain, who had gotten pressure to cease his campaign since Trump’s anti-endorsement and due to recent polling showing his campaign not gaining traction.

“The conclusion they came to was that they need to get McSwain out,” a person close to one of the campaigns said, referring to GOP caucus chairs. “McSwain is basically dead, Trump’s anti-endorsement of him drove his negatives through the roof. There’s no reason for him to still be [in] this race.”

“He has spent $16 million, and he is at best in third place,” the source close to the Corman campaign said about McSwain. “He’s outspent the entire field and hasn’t moved with voters. I don’t know what they will tell voters in the next few days after spending that much that will change voters’ minds about Bill McSwain.”

It was partially in reaction to White’s obstinacy that McSwain ultimately rebuffed the multiple appeals, according to sources.

“You have a bunch of highly invested candidates that think everybody else should drop out and endorse them,” a source familiar with the situation said. “Unfortunately, when you have ambitious and invested people, the idea of laying down your sword for a greater good is obviously not easy nor forthcoming.”

Trip, McSwain’s spokeswoman, pointed to another internal poll showing McSwain nearly tied with Barletta for second place at 10%, and White in fourth at 8%.

No matter which poll ends up correct in the end, however, they merely serve to underscore that the field will remain split despite frenzied attempts by party insiders to force unity on a fiercely divided party. A Mastriano nomination is looking more likely than ever.

Michael Torres is deputy editor of RealClearPennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter at @MindofTorres.

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