PA GOP senate candidates attack each other over Trump loyalty and the AP highlights how these loyalty tests are defining the primary

PENNSYLVANIA — The messy GOP senate primary got even messier this week as Sean Parnell and Jeff Bartos used a Pittsburgh City Paper article to attack each other over perceived allegiance (or lack thereof) to former President Trump. 

The Associated Press highlighted Trump’s looming presence over the primary, specifically calling out how attacks over Trump loyalty have come to define Pennsylvania’s statewide primaries, a dynamic that is likely to continue throughout this “Super MAGA” contest.

See below for excerpts from both articles.

From Pittsburgh City Paper: An extensive list of all the times Sean Parnell criticized Donald Trump:

Before Trump secured the Republican nomination in 2016, Parnell criticized Trump often and in harsh terms. He called for Trump to release his tax returns (only to criticize liberals for focusing on tax returns a year later), he said Trump’s campaign was failing to unify the country, and he criticized Trump’s debate performance, all while openly endorsing and supporting Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) run for president.

Parnell’s opponents have been quick to point out his past criticism of Trump. Jeff Bartos, a businessman who’s also running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, ran digital ads on Google after Parnell’s announcement saying that Parnell “sided with liberals” and linked to Parnell’s 2016 tweet when he called for Trump to release his tax returns.

Parnell campaign spokesman Ian Prior responded to those ads, and attacked the Bartos campaign.

“Digging up old out-of-context tweets reeks of desperation. But what else would you expect from someone like Jeff Bartos who has personally donated to multiple Democrats who supported impeaching President Trump and removing him from office?” said Prior in a statement to Pittsburgh City Paper.

Conor McGuinness, spokesman for the Bartos campaign, pushed back against Parnell, reiterated calls about Parnell’s former Trump criticism, and brought up other instances where Parnell “sided with liberals,” including Parnell’s past support of mail-in voting. He said “frauds like Sean Parnell are what’s wrong with politics.”

“Glad to see Sean Parnell is admitting his support for Act 77, the disastrous legislation that cost President Trump the state of Pennsylvania and the Presidency, and agreeing that he sided with liberals in demanding Donald Trump release his tax returns,” said McGuinness. “Jeff Bartos has raised and donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to elect pro-Trump Republicans. We’ll gladly stack that up against Sean Parnell’s effort to sabotage President Trump’s re-election any day of the week.”

From AP: Trump looms large in Pennsylvania’s GOP primaries in 2022

“What’s an asset in a primary could potentially be a liability in the fall,” Lee said.

It was no mistake, perhaps, that the first attack Parnell faced from GOP rival Jeff Bartos was to try to fray his ties to Trump.

The Bartos campaign quickly spooled out a Parnell missive on Twitter from 2016, when he criticized Trump’s refusal to release his taxes. Asked about it, Parnell said he thought Trump could “inoculate” himself from that line of attack if he had.

Parnell had campaigned for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in the presidential primary that year, but his criticism didn’t stop when Rubio dropped out.

For instance, Parnell retweeted a headline saying Trump wouldn’t disavow support from David Duke or the KKK. Parnell commented, “I suppose I should be surprised but I’m not.” In another, he criticized Trump’s embrace of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“I’m a guy that I call it like I see it,” Parnell said in an interview about his criticism of Trump back then. “You know, I do everything I can to call balls and strikes. I stand up to my party when I think that they’re wrong. And I’m not afraid to stand up for what I believe.”