Former President Donald Trump’s early September endorsement of Republican US Senate candidate Sean Parnell
is, to date, the most consequential event of the 2022 primary campaign season. The August 2021 Franklin & Marshall College Poll
found no clear front runner in the Republican US Senate contest,
with the state’s Republican voters mostly undecided about which candidate they plan to support. The results were not a surprise given how far we are from the primary election in spring 2022 and the fact that none of the leading candidates hold statewide office or has previously run in a high profile, statewide general election campaign. The former president’s endorsement changes this.
Battleground Primary Endorsements
Mr. Trump’s endorsement in battleground primaries has been meaningful. According to Ballotpedia,
his endorsed candidates have won 37 out of 43 (86%) battleground primaries since taking office in 2017, including 21 of 23 (91%) in the 2020 election cycle. His endorsements normally help candidates improve their name recognition and fundraising.
Can we expect President Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Parnell to make a difference in Pennsylvania?
In every survey conducted in 2021, the Franklin & Marshall College Poll has tracked where partisans place themselves within their parties. In each survey we ask respondents, “Regardless of how you are registered in politics, as of today, do you think of yourself as a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent?” Those who respond “independent” are asked if they lean toward a party and, if so, they too are asked the appropriate faction question. Anyone who identifies as Republican is then asked:
The Republican Party includes several different wings or factions. In the Republican Party, for example, there seems to be a faction that embraces Donald Trump’s brand of politics and another that is aligned with a more traditional brand of Republican politics. Do you think of yourself as a Trump Republican, a traditional Republican, or something else?
In Pennsylvania, the largest Republican faction is the Trump faction (Figure 1). Our data, which has found about the same intraparty distribution of partisans in each of this year’s surveys, shows that nearly half (47%) of Republicans identify with the former president, one-third (34%) identify as a “traditional” Republican, and the rest, about one in five (19%), identify as something else. Clearly, Mr. Trump’s endorsement will influence the choices made by those who identify with him.