It hasn't been an easy primary season yet for Pennsylvania Republicans, who have spent the past month scrambling to readjust to the state Supreme Court's legislative district ruling.
But at the airport's Hyatt Regency Hotel this evening, a half-dozen candidates and party leaders rallied 100 or so of western Pennsylvania's party faithful for the primary battles that are less than two months away from balloting.
Ticking off a list of last year's victories -- including a state budget that spends less than the year before, tort and welfare reforms, and "pro-life" legislation regarding regulation of abortion facilities -- House Majority Leader Mike Turzai declared that Steeler Country will be "vital" to winning back the White House.
"Republicans are prepared to fiscally govern the state and the nation," said Turzai, during the inaugural Keystone Dinner's "whistlestop" speech portion.
Not all the talk was focused on unity -- it is, after all, primary season. Both incumbent U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy and his 18th District challenger, Evan Feinberg, addressed the crowd. Feinberg spoke of the "watching our liberties slowly slide away" and slammed the Occupy Wall Street movement as the wrong direction for the country, before turning his sights on Murphy.
"Congressman Murphy is not the solution for our country's problems," Feinberg said. "He's been part of the problem, not the solution."
Murphy, who arrived shortly after his challenger's remarks, said he has been fighting against Washington problems. He touted his experience as an important factor, referencing his recent efforts toward blocking the planned closing of the Air Force's nearby 911th Airlift Wing.
"You know me, you know my family, you know the things I've done," Murphy said. "I'm here to do the best that I can for the region."
GOP State Committee's endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate, Steve Welch, focused on the general election and Democratic Sen Bob Casey instead of his four primary opponent throughout his remarks.
He presented himself to the grassroots portions of the crowd as someone who, like them, came running back into Republican politics (from his stint on the Democratic side of the spectrum) in response to the policies of President Barack Obama. As for Casey, he criticized what he said was a 98 percent record of backing Obama's policies in his votes, asking the crowd if they agree with their spouses that often.
"We are the most innovative country ... but we will not be that way if continue to let the government interfere with our businesses," Welch said.
Also in attendance this evening: Attorney General candidate Dave Freed, state Treasurer candidate Diana Irey Vaughan, U.S. 12th District candidate Keith Rothfus, state Senate hopeful D. Raja, state Sen. Elder Vogel, state Reps. Eli Evankovich and Jim Marshall, as well as former state Sen. Melissa Hart and Allegheny County GOP chairman Jim Roddey.
Former GOP Gov. Dick Thornburgh will be offering remarks shortly as the dinner's keynote speaker.
Update, 8:30 p.m. -- Thornburgh, noting that he was not speaking on the behalf of any of the GOP presidential contenders, scolded the Obama administration as oblivious to the national debt and inattentive to the unemployment rate.
The former governor and state attorney general said the presidential contest will be "fueled by a tsunami of cash flowing from liberal supporters, Hollywood moguls and labor union chiefs." As the battle gets underway, he said he's filed a "friend of the court" brief, along with several other former attorneys general, in the lawsuits against the federal health care law, drawing applause from the dinner crowd.
As for the political atmosphere in his old stomping grounds, he sounded a bit wistful in noting that Gov. Tom Corbett has both a Republican House and Senate for carrying out his policies. "I've told him, 'You are really sitting pretty,'" Thornburgh quipped.
"It’s good to be in a state where Republicans, despite our million-vote deficit in registration, are not only hanging in there but are on the top rung of the ladder," he said.