ANALYSIS: Report Unlikely To End Marino’s Political Career

October 18, 2017 GMT

U.S. Rep. Tom Marino’s withdrawal Tuesday from consideration as national drug czar was a surprise because of its swiftness, but probably won’t end his political career if he still wants one.

With President Donald Trump promising to declare all-out war starting next week against the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic, the president couldn’t afford to have the Republican congressman from Lycoming County as his drug czar, despite Marino’s early support for his presidential candidacy.

Not when many who watched “60 Minutes” on Sunday or read the Washington Post believe, fairly or unfairly, that Marino’s bill curbing the powers of the Drug Enforcement Administration basically contributed to the opioid crisis.

For all his disdain for fake news, Trump knows the real thing when he sees it.

“Rep. Tom Marino has informed me that he is withdrawing his name from consideration as drug czar. Tom is a fine man and a great Congressman!” Trump tweeted at 7:39 a.m. Tuesday.

Whether Trump asked Marino to withdraw, Marino offered to withdraw to avoid tainting the president’s anti-opioid efforts or something else intervened makes little difference.

“Frankly, I think he did the right thing,” said Thomas Baldino, a Wilkes University political science professor. “But, if Trump had decided to stick with him, he would have been confirmed. Resigning saved him and Trump a lot of unneeded aggravation and maybe some political capital.”

Baldino said he thinks Marino could have pointed to his credentials fighting drugs as a local and federal prosecutor and argued he favors improving his law if its consequences really prove dangerous.

“He has some credibility to stand with the president,” he said.

For now, Marino will remain the 10th Congressional District representative.

His withdrawal Tuesday marked the second time he pulled back from the drug czar job. Marino said his mother’s illness prompted him to withdraw from consideration in May, the first time Trump planned to nominate him. Marino eventually changed his mind again, and Trump nominated him in September.

That might raise questions about Marino’s commitment or interest in staying in Congress. So might his aversion to say definitively that he is running for a fifth two-year term next year. So far, he has shown only lackluster fundraising this year, though maybe because he expected to move on and had to deal with his mother’s illness.

As of Sept. 30, Marino still had $112,501 in cash left, but only raised $8,500 in the third quarter of this year. Not that he needs a lot more than that to keep a seat in a reliably Republican district.

Baldino has no doubt Marino would easily win re-election, though the lone Democrat in the race, Judy Herschel, has a background as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor, an interesting contrast at the moment.

Herschel said she has talked about the bill’s effects for a while now and thinks what happened may convince even Republicans to view her with an open mind.

Maybe, but the district remains strongly Republican in voter registration and voted for Trump 66 percent to 30 percent against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton last year. Republican challengers, who lined up to replace Marino if he moved on, probably will decline to take on Marino in the primary election next May for a simple reasons.

“Because he supports Trump,” Baldino said.

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