Two of the first Pennsylvanians to back former President Donald Trump in his quest for the White House are now changing course and throwing their support behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Former U.S. representatives Lou Barletta and Tom Marino tweeted out their encouragement for DeSantis to formally declare a run for the presidency in 2024.
More than ever our country needs strong leadership, someone that gets things done & isn’t afraid to stand up for what’s right. So Tom Marino & I are calling on our former colleague @RonDeSantisFL to run for president in 2024. Come on Ron, your country needs you! #NeverBackDown— Lou Barletta (@RepLouBarletta) March 10, 2023
In early 2016, Marino became one of the first Republican members of Congress to endorse Trump, calling his decision “one of my life-changing moments.” He was rewarded with a spot on Trump’s transition team and was later tapped to be director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, though Marino withdrew after questions about his record on opioids. He resigned from Congress in 2019 soon after beginning his fifth term, citing recurring kidney problems.
Barletta had counted himself among Trump’s most diehard allies and endorsed him around the same time as Marino, despite what many GOP officials were saying about Trump’s candidacy. He served as the co-chair of his first presidential campaign in Pennsylvania.
Trump referred to Barletta and Marino as “Thunder and Lightning.”
The break between the parties seemed to occur during last spring’s gubernatorial primary in the Keystone State, as Trump refused to endorse Barletta who lost the GOP nomination to Sen. Doug Mastriano.
Trump did cast his lot with Mastriano days before the primary.
“There is no one in Pennsylvania who has done more, or fought harder, for election integrity than state Senator Doug Mastriano,” Trump said in his endorsement statement. “He has revealed the deceit, corruption, and outright theft of the 2020 presidential election, and will do something about it.”
For his part, Barletta did endorse Mastriano for the post in late October.
In a letter that he shared with the New York Times, Marino wrote that the former president “has thrown several people that were close to him under the bus”; “has no idea what loyalty means”; and “severely lacks character and integrity.” He concluded by writing that he would not only not support Trump, but would campaign against him.
“I will not support Trump, in fact, I will campaign against him,” Marino’s letter concluded. “Our country deserves a person who is mature, respects others and is honest to lead our nation.”
“I’m not supporting him,” Barletta said of Trump’s 2024 campaign in an interview with POLITICO. “I was one of his most loyal supporters in Congress. But loyalty was only a one-way street.”
David Urban, a Pennsylvania native who served as a senior adviser for Trump’s 2016 campaign, said, “I think most people in Pennsylvania are open to somebody else” in 2024.
Urban said that even his longtime friends in Beaver County, who are “Trump until they die,” told him “we like DeSantis a lot,” though they haven’t yet walked away from the former president.