Lou Barletta and Scott Wagner are totally devoted to Trump. They are also down badly in the polls.
Between Lou Barletta for Senate and Scott Wagner for governor, Pennsylvania Republicans nominated candidates with sterling pro-Trump credentials. But a new poll from Franklin & Marshall College shows that most Pennsylvania voters are not impressed.
According to the poll, Barletta trails Democratic Sen. Bob Casey 44 to 27, while Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf crushes Wagner 48 to 29. These results roughly match other polls conducted in March and April.
Barletta, a vehemently anti-immigrant congressman who has faced controversy for his past ties to Holocaust deniers and 9/11 truthers, was Trump’s hand-picked candidate for Senate. An early endorser of Trump, Barletta served as Trump’s campaign co-chair in Pennsylvania, and later on his transition team.
Wagner even adopted some of Trump’s mannerisms on the campaign trail. He referred to his primary opponent Paul Mango as “Lying Paul” during a debate, much like the way Trump dispatched his own opponents. And he released a campaign video titled “Drain the Harrisburg Swamp.”
Leaning on Trump for help failed to bear fruit for the GOP in previous Pennsylvania races. When state Rep. Rick Saccone’s candidacy started flagging in a special election for a deep red House district earlier this year, Trump went out to campaign for him. It did not save him.
It’s true that both Casey and Wolf are incumbents, which gives them an edge over Barletta and Wagner. But the pro-Trump candidates may be struggling for another reason: Trump himself is just not popular in Pennsylvania. The Franklin & Marshall poll finds that Trump’s approval rating in the state is a dismal 35 percent.
And the electoral environment isn’t just hostile to Republicans in Pennsylvania. Nationwide, the gubernatorial map this year favors Democrats. And the Senate map, while tilted heavily toward the GOP, has been shrinking for them in recent months, from Democrats running competitively in Tennessee to Republicans nominating an overt racist in Virginia.
In this environment, Pennsylvania’s top GOP candidates seem to think Trump can carry them through. The numbers are not on their side.