(THE HILL) – Former Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Charlie Dent on Saturday said former President Trump’s speech at a rally on Saturday night in the Keystone State was a “major gift” for Democrats.
“Most Republican candidates don’t want anything to do with Donald Trump in this general election. They want this to be about Joe Biden and the Democrats, but to the extent Trump inserts himself into this conversation, he’s giving the Democrats a major gift right now,” Dent said on CNN.
The Wilkes-Barre, Pa., rally was billed as support for Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz and gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano — but it was also Trump’s first after the FBI executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago residence and recovered classified documents kept after the end of his presidential term.
“I am not so sure that the former President Trump did anyone any good with that speech tonight. Just by showing up in Pennsylvania, he is making the election much more about himself,” Dent said.
Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon and TV personality, has been falling behind Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the state’s Senate race, per recent polling.
“Mehmet Oz I don’t think wants to be anywhere near Donald Trump in this fall election. It doesn’t do him any good. He needs to win swing voters and independents and some Democrats, and it’s hard to do that when Trump is really just playing and pandering to the base,” Dent said.
Trump during the rally lambasted the FBI for the Mar-a-Lago search, knocking it as “one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history.”
In the wake of criticisms from Trump and his supporters, FBI agents have weathered an uptick in attacks against law enforcement.
Dent on Saturday pushed back against the outrage.
“If any member of Congress absconded with classified material, I can assure you that a G-man, somebody from the FBI, would have showed up at their homes and demanded that they return that information,” Dent said.
Dent represented Pennsylvania in Congress from 2005 until his retirement in 2018. He’s now a political commentator for CNN.
Dent and a group of former Pennsylvania Republican officials endorsed Democratic state Attorney General Josh Shapiro over their party’s nominee, Mastriano, in the gubernatorial election. Dent has called Mastriano “an extremist who is a threat to the rule of law and the constitutional order.”