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An anti-Trump Pa. Republican is warning against ‘MAGA extremists’ in new Senate campaign

Craig Snyder is aiming squarely at Pennsylvania’s political middle, allying himself with prominent anti-Trump Republicans, and calling for a party reckoning.

Craig Snyder is entering Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, running as an anti-Trump Republican.
Craig Snyder is entering Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for U.S. Senate, running as an anti-Trump Republican.Read moreTOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

Next year’s race to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate will help shape the direction of the Republican Party. And Craig Snyder thinks there’s still time to take a sharp turn away from former President Donald Trump.

Snyder, a 60-year-old Republican from Philadelphia and onetime top aide to the late, moderate Sen. Arlen Specter, will announce his candidacy on Wednesday in a race that will help determine control of the Senate.

He’s aiming squarely at the political middle, allying himself with prominent anti-Trump Republicans, and calling for a party reckoning. His slogan: “Not Trumpism. Not Socialism. Common Sense.”

“In the absence of the kind of movement that I’m trying to mobilize, Pennsylvanians are going to end up next November with an unacceptable choice between a MAGA extremist and a woke progressive extremist,” Snyder, a business consultant and lobbyist, said in an interview Monday ahead of his formal announcement.

» READ MORE: Pa. Republicans see a big opportunity in 2022. But some are worried their candidates might blow it.

Of course, the evidence to date suggests Trump’s grip on the GOP has only tightened since he incited the violent Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

Dissenters like Rep. Liz Cheney have been purged from party leadership; calls for new, partisan election reviews, including in Pennsylvania, have gained momentum; and Republican candidates across the country have been jockeying for the former president’s endorsement.

In Pennsylvania, Republican Senate candidates Jeff Bartos and Sean Parnell have attacked each other over perceived disloyalty to Trump. Kathy Barnette, who raised more money than her rivals for the quarter that ended June 30, has established her own pro-Trump bona fides by hunting for voter fraud in her defeat in a Montgomery County-based congressional race last year. Carla Sands, a Republican donor who served as Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, is also running.

» READ MORE: Kathy Barnette’s hunt for election fraud has rippled across the American election denial movement and made her a GOP contender for Senate in Pennsylvania

So Snyder will likely have the anti-Trump lane virtually all to himself. The question is whether it’s really just a bridge to nowhere in Republican politics.

Most Republican strategists have dismissed such campaigns as pipe dreams that attract news media attention but fail to resonate with voters.

Snyder noted that other Pennsylvania Republicans like former Govs. Dick Thornburgh and Tom Ridge won their primary elections with about one-third of the vote, and he says he can follow that model by coalescing center-right voters as other candidates compete for Trump’s core supporters.

“There are lots and lots of traditional Republicans in Pennsylvania and around the country who want to build this post-Trump future,” he said.

In a campaign launch video to be released Wednesday morning, Snyder recounts how the party lost the White House, Senate, and House in just four years and says it’s time for the GOP to change course.

“Despite the ever-increasing radicalization of the political left,” swing voters “came to see us in the last four years as even crazier,” he says against the backdrop of footage of the Capitol riot and of neo-Nazis marching at the deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Standing outside Musical Fund Hall in Philadelphia, where the first Republican National Convention was held in 1856, Snyder says in the video that next year the party “must again decide what it stands for and why it deserves the support of a majority of all voters.”

He’s getting support from other anti-Trump Republicans like former U.S. Rep. Jim Greenwood of Bucks County and the conservative intellectual Bill Kristol. His general consultant is Steve Crim, a strategist who helped elect Republican Larry Hogan governor of Maryland.

Pennsylvania’s open-seat race to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey will help decide control of the Senate in next year’s midterm elections. The Democratic primary field includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Montgomery County Commissioner Val Arkoosh, and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb is also expected to jump in, and State Sen. Sharif Street is exploring a bid.

» READ MORE: Here’s what fund-raising reports from Pa.’s 2022 Senate candidates tell us

Snyder served as Specter’s chief of staff in the mid-1990s before starting the lobbying and consulting firm Ikon Public Affairs. More recently, he spent eight years as CEO of the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, a public policy nonprofit, and is now president and CEO of the consulting and communications firm Indigo Global LLP.

In 2016 he founded a super PAC aimed at helping Hillary Clinton defeat Trump.

In the interview Monday, Snyder said he grew up in a family of New Deal Democrats and became a Republican during the Reagan revolution.

“That’s been sort of true north for me,” Snyder said, “is what the academics call liberalism, with a capital L, and what I call commonsense conservatism.”