Bill McSwain’s campaign for Pennsylvania governor tests an unusual political premise: Can a candidate in a Republican primary successfully campaign on his connection to a party leader who has declared that candidate “a coward”?

McSwain, who was appointed as U.S. Attorney in Philadelphia by former President Donald Trump, has attracted strong support from influential conservatives in the state. And polling shows there are more Republican voters undecided in the race than have settled on a candidate. But Trump’s rebuke is an inevitable drag on McSwain in a primary where all nine candidates are hoping for Trump’s support.

McSwain, 53, a former Marine, just keeps moving forward with a law-and-order pitch, tinged with some of the election denial that has become a litmus test in GOP primaries.

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What is Bill McSwain’s background?

McSwain served as a Marine Corp platoon commander, something that comes up often in campaign ads and speeches. He got undergraduate and law degrees from Yale and Harvard, respectively.

The West Chester native, now back in private practice, served three years as an assistant U.S. attorney during President George W. Bush’s administration, and another three years running the office under Trump. That time as the region’s top federal prosecutor is the central focus of McSwain’s campaign.

McSwain touts efforts to fight political corruption in Philadelphia, though his involvement is sometimes overstated. He recused himself due to potential conflicts of interest from some of the highest-profile corruption cases during his tenure.

He was best known in the Department of Justice for a driving ambition, an eagerness climb the ranks and use the job to position himself for the next one.

What are Bill McSwain’s top policy priorities?

Crime is always on the top of the list for McSwain, and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Kranser is always cast as the bad guy. He’s far from the only Republican in the primary to highlight soaring homicides and gun violence in the city.

McSwain’s answer: Take away the right of Philadelphians to elect their own DA, and let the governor appoint that position instead. Other Republicans in the field scoff at that idea, and note that McSwain was the top federal prosecutor as the crime surge began.

Like other candidates, McSwain has campaigned against COVID-19 precautions put in place by Gov. Tom Wolf, a term-limited Democrat. McSwain has attempted to turn the tables on a top competitor, State Sen. Doug Mastriano, noting that he previously advocated for the state government to publicly identify people who had contracted the coronavirus. Mastriano frequently rails against COVID measures.

McSwain has also vowed to reduce the state’s gasoline tax by 50%, blaming high prices at the pump on the de facto Democratic nominee for governor, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro — who holds an office that does not control gas prices.

Who is backing Bill McSwain?

McSwain’s most valuable support comes from the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs, a Harrisburg-based conservative group that runs a pair of influential political action committees funded by Jeff Yass, a Main Line billionaire investor and the state’s richest man.

McSwain’s most recent campaign finance report shows the group spent almost $6 million in the first three months of the year to help him, more than double what McSwain has raised for his own campaign.

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The group told supporters in mid-April it was “assessing” the impact of Trump’s turn on McSwain, a rebuke that had been brewing since last year. Trump, in a series of speeches last summer, claimed McSwain was prevented by then-Attorney General Bill Barr from investigating baseless claims of voter fraud. Barr disputed that and said McSwain admitted he made that claim to Trump in a bid to win his endorsement.

That backfired. Trump declared McSwain “a coward” in an April anti-endorsement.

What else should I know?

McSwain has highlighted his lack of political experience, claiming an “outsider” status while accusing competitors like Mastriano, former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, and former Delaware County Councilman Dave White of being “career politicians.

A group backing Barletta has cast McSwain as “a puppet” of Sen. Pat Toomey, who sponsored his nomination for U.S. Attorney and supported his ambitions in the Department of Justice. Toomey, who is not seeking reelection, fell out of favor with many Republicans for voting to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial.