Trump throws support behind Barletta in Pa. Senate race

Trump throws support behind Barletta in Pa. Senate race
© Greg Nash

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump appears to confirm deal on Chinese firm ZTE Judge rejects Manafort's attempt to throw out some charges Dem: Trump’s policy of separating children, parents at border ‘would shock Jesus’ MORE on Sunday threw his support behind Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — Tensions mount for House Republicans Koch-backed group to target some Republicans over spending vote in new ad campaign Trump endorses Arkansas governor's reelection bid ahead of primary MORE (R-Pa.), who is seen as the leading Republican candidate seeking to unseat Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseySenate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation Senators offer tax bill aimed at helping first responders McConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP MORE Jr. (D) in the midterm elections.

“Rep. Lou Barletta, a Great Republican from Pennsylvania who was one of my very earliest supporters, will make a FANTASTIC Senator,” Trump tweeted. “He is strong & smart, loves Pennsylvania & loves our Country! Voted for Tax Cuts, unlike Bob Casey, who listened to Tax Hikers Pelosi and Schumer!”

Trump had already given Barletta a de facto endorsement last year when he said during a rally that the candidate was a "great guy" who will "win big."

The president has lately taken an interest in elections in Pennsylvania, a state that proved vital to Trump’s victory in 2016.

Last month, the president visited the state to signal support for Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate in a special election to replace Rep. Tim MurphyTim MurphySaccone loses GOP primary comeback bid in Pa. Nearly half of voters hope for Dems to win majority in 2018: poll GOP Rep. Dent will leave Congress in May MORE (R), who announced his resignation last month after reports that he had urged a woman with whom he had been having an affair to get an abortion.

Barletta was an early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign. After Trump expressed his support, Barletta tweeted on Sunday afternoon: “We are revitilizing the American dream day after day. America will grow America will prosper America will be greater than ever before. #MAGA.”

Barletta has drawn fire recently over a CNN report that when he was mayor of Hazleton, Pa., he did an interview in 2006 with American Free Press, which is known for promoting anti-Semitic views, including the idea that the Holocaust wasn’t real.

The next year he also headlined a rally featuring a band that promoted Holocaust and 9/11 conspiracies.

According to Barletta’s deputy campaign manager, Barletta was “not aware of these individuals’ background,” and has always condemned “hate, bigotry and racial supremacy in all its forms.”

The Pennsylvania primary elections for the Senate will be held on May 15.