Trump support steadfast among Pa. Republicans amid muted response

Matt Enright
York Dispatch

Support for Donald Trump among Pennsylvania Republicans appeared steadfast in the face of 34 felony counts handed down Tuesday, even as most public officials were slow to weigh in.

Trump, who is running for the GOP's 2024 presidential nomination, entered a not guilty plea on charges related to alleged hush-money payments made in 2016.

"All is being done for purely political reasons, but what else would you expect from a city so rife with corruption and cronyism?" York County GOP Chairman John O'Neill said via text message as the former president appeared in a Manhattan courtroom.

Former President Donald Trump appears in court for his arraignment, Tuesday, April 4, 2023, in New York.  Trump surrendered to authorities ahead of his arraignment on criminal charges stemming from a hush money payment to a porn actor during his 2016 campaign. (Timothy A. Clary/Pool Photo via AP)

No major pollsters have taken the temperature of Pennsylvania's GOP voters since news of Trump's grand jury indictment broke last week. The latest one from Public Policy Polling, which polled 616 Republican-leaning voters March 9-10, found Trump leading the as-yet-undeclared Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by 8 percentage points in a head-to-head matchup. That lead grew to 18 points when the field expanded to include other would-be challengers.

"At the moment, this is energizing Trump's base," political analyst G. Terry Madonna said Tuesday.

Several recent national polls have shown Trump with a significant lead on DeSantis, including a Reuters survey that showed Trump receiving 48% support versus DeSantis' 19% among GOP voters.

MORE:Trump's expected surrender creates New York spectacle: Watch live

MORE:Coroner IDs boy killed by a gunshot Saturday in Red Lion

MORE:Dante Mullinix's aunt launches second billboard critical of justice system

Madonna cautioned, however, that it was still early. He also noted that DeSantis was popular among Pennsylvania conservatives last weekend at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference.

"He got a standing ovation, according to the reports that I read," Madonna said.

The indictment against former President Donald Trump is photographed Tuesday, April 4, 2023. Prosecutors say Trump conspired to "undermine the integrity of the 2016 election" through a series of hush money payments designed to stifle claims that could be harmful to his candidacy. That's according to the 34-count felony indictment. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

Despite Trump's previous calls for supporters to protest the indictment, no such public demonstrations appeared to be in the offing across central Pennsylvania. Some Trump loyalists took to Twitter and Truth Social, among other platforms, to decry the criminal charges — but there were no indications of in-person protests being organized.

Most elected officials also kept mum on the issue — at least as of 4:15 p.m. Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Carroll Township, last weighed in on the issue March 31 via Twitter: "Political prosecution of rivals was once reserved for bloodthirsty Soviet dictators and tyrannical banana republics — now it’s fully embraced and celebrated by the radical Left here. Disgraceful."

Democratic Party of York Chairman Chad Baker said Tuesday that at least 12 individuals believed the former president's conduct merited an indictment.

"That is not politically motivated," he said. "It is the justice system at work."

Trump has been steadily raising money off his pending charges; campaign spokesman Jason Miller claimed in an email that the campaign had fundraised $7 million as of Monday afternoon, according to NPR.

"Right at the moment, there isn't any doubt that this is galvanizing Trump's base," Madonna said.

>> Please consider subscribing to support local journalism. 

New York state officials reportedly did not require Trump to stand for a mug shot as he was processed before the arraignment. Nonetheless, according to Axios, Trump's campaign advertised a T-shirt in an email to followers using a fake mug shot of the former president with the phrase: "NOT GUILTY."

MORE:Man pleads guilty to series of rapes over the span of a few months

MORE:York County to hold hazardous waste collection day

MORE:Supporters hope Pa.’s new legislature will embrace open primaries, but one big hurdle remains

In York County, Baker stressed that everyone is entitled to a fair judicial process.

"Thus," he said, "the former President will have the opportunity to prove his stated innocence in front of the court. Regardless of the outcome of this process, this is a historic day in American history and one more dark stain on an already tarnished presidency."

— Reach Matt Enright via email at menright@yorkdispatch.com or via Twitter at @Matthew_Enright.