When Donald Trump won the presidential election in 2016, his surprising victory in Pennsylvania was one of the driving forces behind the electoral win. He had state Reps. Lou Barletta and Tom Marino to thank.

Those two, among the first on the Trump train and the conductors of the win here in the commonwealth, have turned the page from the former president and would like to see their party do so as well.

Late last week, the two former congressmen threw their support behind Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, encouraging the popular governor — he won Florida by nearly 20 points last year — to run for president in 2024 against a field that already includes Trump.

DeSantis has not formally announced a run for the White House but it is only a matter of time. He is already spending time in Iowa and zooming across the nation on a book tour. Political experts say he will announce a formal bid after Florida’s spring legislative session ends.

The shift away from Trump for Barletta and Marino kicked into high gear when the former president offered his late endorsement in last year’s governor’s race to state Sen. Doug Mastriano, over a field that included Barletta.

Trump’s endorsement came in the final days of the race.

Mastriano had already built a significant lead in a large field and Trump backed the winner. But who knows what would have happened had Trump backed Barletta the way the former state representative backed him six years earlier.

“We worked hard for Trump and we won Pennsylvania for him in his first race and the second race we worked hard and he didn’t care about us at all,” Marino told The Daily Item last week.

There remains a hardcore base of Trump supporters that will never leave him. The number is significant.

Some of those long in Trump’s corner are moving away toward what Barletta called “young leadership ... without the drama and controversy.”

Drama and controversy didn’t stop Trump the first time. But he clawed his way to victory on the backs of people like Barletta and Marino, whose grassroots support spread Trump’s base and message to a point where a significant number of voters will always support him now, regardless of impeachments, personal drama and his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Without their support, is victory still possible for Trump?

We are about to find out. A large swath of establishment Republicans are growing weary of Trump. The question is will he bring down the entire party in a bid to return to power, or embrace the role of kingmaker for someone like DeSantis?

Barletta and Marino think they know the answer, which is why they are getting on board now.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Editor William Bowman.

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