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Our newsletter was written and ready to roll yesterday morning, well ahead of schedule. We were just waiting on our editor. Then Donald Trump came crashing through Pennsylvania like the Kool-Aid Man.

Over the course of four days, Trump stampeded through the state’s Republican primaries, shooting off fireworks and flipping over tables in a display of his enduring power to cause chaos and shape GOP narratives.

But beneath the disruption, can he actually change outcomes? We’re about to find out. In grabbing the spotlight, Trump also set up clear tests of his power over the party and its voters.

Let’s start from the beginning.

The former president made his first splash Saturday by endorsing Mehmet Oz for Senate. Suddenly, the celebrity surgeon known as “Dr. Oz” had the biggest chit in Republican politics, and a potent rebuttal to the nonstop TV ads calling him a RINO. It also complicated life for Oz’s main rival, former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who had pitched himself as an “America First” candidate and furiously lobbied for Trump’s endorsement.

But Trump dropped his real fire yesterday.

Out of nowhere, he blasted out a blistering anti-endorsement of gubernatorial candidate Bill McSwain: “Do not vote for Bill McSwain, a coward, who let our Country down.”

Not great for a candidate who had been promoting himself as the Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia.

Trump blamed McSwain for failing to prosecute the non-existent massive voter fraud that POTUS 45 says cost him Pennsylvania. McSwain is hardly an innocent victim of the fraud fantasy, having played along to pursue Trump’s endorsement.

Around the same time, State Senate leader Jake Corman was filing paperwork to drop out of the governor’s race. It all looked like a victory for Trump-aligned candidates like State Sen. Doug Mastriano and former Congressman Lou Barletta, and Ls for the traditional Republicans — McSwain, Corman, McCormick — who had tried to shape themselves to fit the new, Trumpier GOP.

But it’s never that simple, is it?

McSwain said he wouldn’t quit and he’s still got plenty of money behind him. Corman — citing the anvil that just landed on McSwain and his own conversation with Trump — withdrew his withdrawal papers.

Now we’ll see how strong Trump’s influence really is.

In the Senate race, it’s far from assured that Oz wins the nomination. McCormick’s team is still hammering away, and a poll yesterday by the Republican Eagle Consulting Group showed McCormick up 18% to 11% before the endorsement, so we’ll see how Trump moves those numbers.

The governor’s race is different: Trump hasn’t said who he’s for, but made it very clear who he’s against. That could be even more powerful: He has always been a better political destroyer than builder.

Should McSwain defy him, though, and beat two rivals who have wrapped themselves in the MAGA flag, it would expose new weakness for Trump, and a loosening grip on the GOP.

As for Corman, it’s not clear how his campaign today is any stronger than when he woke up yesterday planning to quit. But apparently Trump talked him into staying in the race — and we’ll see if there’s more active support from the ex-president ahead.

I checked in with a longtime Pennsylvania operative late yesterday, and he threw up his hands and said no one knows what comes next. This guy has seen some stuff. But he texted me: “Today was the craziest day of my career.”

As the Kool-Aid Man would say: Oh yeah.

Quote of the week

“When you’re in television for 18 years, that’s like a poll. That means people like you.”

-Trump, talking about his Oz endorsement at a rally Saturday, in probably the most clear distillation of why he gave the nod to a fellow celebrity.

What else you should know

  • AGainst it. When Philadelphia reimposed its mask mandate, state AG Josh Shapiro was quick to break with the city. “That’s a decision that the mayor made, I certainly didn’t make it. And I’m not a supporter of these mandates,” Shapiro told CNN. His statement shows how much COVID politics have changed, and how Shapiro is also preparing for the general election already, seemingly happy to show some separation from Philly’s progressive mayor. Making it easier: He has no primary opponent.

  • “Not really a progressive in that sense.” Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the Democratic Senate front-runner, took a similar step toward defining himself for November, even though he does have primary opponents. In an interview with Jewish Insider, the LG broke from some left-wing Democrats on Israel, saying he would support funding for the country’s Iron Dome missile defense system and oppose the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. “I’m not really a progressive in that sense,” he said about Israel. Fetterman’s interview came ahead of a forum with Jewish Democrats tomorrow, but he’s also clearly confident of his standing with progressives, and this kind of positioning suggests he’s also pretty sure he’ll be courting the wider electorate soon.

  • Writing itself. Days after scoring the big Trump endorsement, Oz was headed out to… New Jersey. The place where he isn’t running for office but where his critics say he actually belongs. Oz is headlining a fundraiser today for the Bergen County GOP, in the North Jersey county where he has lived for 30-plus years and still owns two mansions. It looks like a case of a famous candidate trying to help a local party raise money, and Oz was involved with the Bergen GOP in the early 2000s (he even hosted a fundraiser for George W. Bush). Candidates do events out of state all the time. But for a guy who’s been slammed as a carpetbagger, it’s just more fodder.

  • My mind on their money and their money on my mind. The latest Senate fundraising reports drop Friday, and there’s a lot to dig into. It’ll be our very first look at McCormick’s campaign finances — how much of his own money he’s spending, who his donors are, and how much he’s paying his flotilla of consultants. It’ll also be our first in-depth look at Oz’s cash, after seeing just a month’s worth so far. And we’ll find out which rich friends are funding their respective super PACs. We’ll have the details as soon as we can dig into them.

That’s it for this week. Hope you have a great holiday if you’re celebrating. Good luck finding those eggs, and keep an eye on the afikomen.