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Pat Meehan, Brian Fitzpatrick edge toward Trump

WASHINGTON -- In the days leading up to the Republican National Convention, two Pennsylvania Republicans on the congressional ballot this fall have hinted for the first time they may support Donald Trump for president -- while stopping short of formal endorsements.

Rep. Pat Meehan, seeking reelection to a Delaware County-based seat, and Brian Fitzpatrick, who is seeking a Congressional seat in based in Bucks County, both had some words of praise for Trump this week, but also remained cautious about the divisive nominee.

Neither had previously elaborated on their views of Trump, who has dominated the political landscape and energized some Republicans, but worried others who fear he will turn off moderate voters and lead to electoral disaster.

"I'm still a little bit concerned about his tone," Meehan said in an interview Wednesday. "I do believe he has struck a chord with a great deal of voters. I think people ought to be paying attention to the fact that he has connected with a lot of people."

But Meehan, who backed Chris Christie in the GOP primary, added that he wants to see "a vision for where (Trump) wants to take the country."

So will he vote for Trump?

"Let's see what happens in November," Meehan said. "I suspect we're all going to end up supporting the Republican ticket. I'm not going to vote for Hillary Clinton."

Fitzpatrick, making his first-ever run for public office and hoping to replace his brother, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, who is retiring, has until now avoided saying much about Trump. Aides did not respond to three requests from The Inquirer, dating back to May, asking whether he would endorse the New Yorker. But on Friday came a 333-word statement that offered some praise for Trump without firmly picking sides.

Fitzpatrick, a former FBI agent, said Clinton "represents more of the same policies that have failed to keep our nation safe" while "most in the national security arena feel that, comparatively speaking, (Trump) is more likely to surround himself with a national security team that will be better able to protect our country."

He also praised Trump's opposition to "unfair trade agreements" while adding, "I want to see more than words from Mr. Trump, as well as from all other candidates and elected officials." He said he hoped Trump lays out more detailed policies at the convention, which Fitzpatrick is not attending.

Numerous Republican foreign policy experts, however, have raised questions about Trump's national security credentials. More than 90 GOP security veterans signed a letter earlier this year pledging to oppose the billionaire.

Democrats have harried Fitzpatrick over Trump, eager to link him to the nominee as he runs in a moderate swing district. They recently circulated video of Fitzpatrick at a July 4 parade, appearing to hide his face from a Democratic tracker as he rode in a pickup that had a Trump flag in the back.

A Democratic spokesman wrote that the reaction shows Fitzpatrick knows Trump is "toxic" in the district. Democrats have tried to tie Republicans across the country to Trump.

Other local Republicans in Congress, including Rep. Ryan Costello, of Chester County, and Reps. Frank LoBiondo and Tom MacArthur, of South Jersey, have previously said they will support Trump.

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