Trump-backed congressman wins GOP Senate primary in Pa.

Trump-backed congressman wins GOP Senate primary in Pa.
© Greg Nash

Rep. Lou BarlettaLouis (Lou) James BarlettaBottom Line Ex-GOP congressman to lead group to protect Italian products from tariffs Head of Pennsylvania GOP resigns over alleged explicit texts MORE (R-Pa.) is projected to win the GOP primary in the marquee race for the Pennsylvania Senate seat now held by Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: Cure Violence Global founder Gary Slutkin says violence and epidemics follow same patterns; Global death toll surpasses half a million 21 senators urge Pentagon against military use to curb nationwide protests Overnight Health Care: Trump says US 'terminating' relationship with WHO | Cuomo: NYC on track to start reopening week of June 8 | COVID-19 workplace complaints surge MORE Jr. (D).

The Associated Press called the race for Barletta at 9:41 p.m. EDT.

Barletta, who was backed by President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse panel approves 0.5B defense policy bill House panel votes against curtailing Insurrection Act powers after heated debate House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops MORE and the Pennsylvania Republican Party, defeated little-known challenger state Rep. Jim Christiana Tuesday for the Republican nomination. Barletta, who has served in the House since 2011, will now face Casey in November.

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An early supporter of Trump’s during the 2016 election, Barletta jumped into the Senate race with the full backing of the president. Trump touted Barletta as a “great guy” at a Pennsylvania rally earlier this year, and endorsed him in February.

Days ahead of Tuesday’s primary, Trump recorded a robocall for Barletta, lauding the congressman as an immigration hard-liner and touting his support for the GOP’s tax plan.

Christiana pitched himself as a fresh alternative to both Barletta and Casey, who have both been in Washington for years. But Trump's endorsement of Barletta, coupled with Christiana's low name recognition and fundraising, kept the state legislator from gaining traction.

While Barletta was heavily favored to win on Tuesday, the congressman still faced scrutiny during the primary campaign, particularly over his lackluster fundraising. Republicans had major concerns about Barletta's prospects against Casey after Barletta raised only a half-million dollars in the last three months of 2017.

Barletta stepped up his fundraising, however, raising more than twice that in the first quarter of this year. But Barletta is still far behind Casey, who has brought in more than $10 million since the beginning of the cycle.

Barletta also faced some damaging headlines, which will likely be fodder for Democrats in the general election.

In January, CNN reported that, when he was mayor of Hazleton, Pa., Barletta did an interview with American Free Press, a weekly newspaper that promotes anti-Semitic views. Barletta’s deputy campaign manager said the congressman was “not aware of these individuals’ background” when he did the interview, saying the candidate has always condemned “hate, bigotry and racial supremacy in all its forms.”

Casey, who has served in the upper chamber since 2007, is one of 10 Senate Democrats up for reelection in a state Trump won in 2016. But while Pennsylvania trended red in 2016, Trump only won the state by less than 1 point.

Casey goes into the general election with an edge — especially if Trump’s approval ratings continue to remain underwater closer to the November election.