The message was direct to Republicans in Pennsylvania in the final days before the May 17 primary: don’t pick someone who can’t win.
While announcing he was dropping out of the GOP gubernatorial race and throwing his support behind former U.S. Representative Lou Barletta, State Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Jake Corman called the gubernatorial seat open to “opportunity”.
“The only way to fail in the fall is to nominate someone who can’t win,” he said.
This comment was directed at the presumed favorite for the Republican nomination, Senator Doug Mastriano. The clearest sign of Mastriano’s alleged dominance in the primary came on Saturday when he secured a last-minute endorsement from former President Donald Trump. Mastriano was a leading peddler in Pennsylvania of Trump’s lies about the 2020 election.
“He exposed the deception, corruption and outright theft of the 2020 presidential election, and will do something about it,” Trump said in a statement Saturday, adding that Mastriano “is a fighter like few others. others, and has been with me from the beginning, and now I have an obligation to be with him.
But Corman’s remarks highlighted what has been an open concern among Republicans — that Mastriano might be too extreme to win a general election in the battleground state.
Swing voters in the heavily populated suburbs of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh have proven decisive in previous elections — a voting bloc that state Senate GOP leader Kim Ward has said Republicans must win — and they might not be conquered by Mastriano.
“Senator Mastriano appealed to grassroots Republicans, but I fear the Democrats will destroy him with swing voters,” Ward wrote in a Facebook post this week announcing that she was supporting the former county board member. of Delaware, Dan White, for the office of governor. “The goal is not to win the primary. Winning the primary and losing the overall because the candidate is unable to secure the votes in the middle is not a victory. We need a candidate who can win in November.
Democrats, eager to rush Mastriano’s growing status within the crowded Republican field, launched a statewide political ad in the final days of the campaign.
“That’s Republican State Senator Doug Mastriano,” the ad begins. He explains that Mastriano wants to ban abortions and end mail-in voting and is a strong Trump supporter — all references Mastriano wants his base to know, but the ones Democrats say will end up hurting him. he was the GOP nominee in November.
The announcement is being paid for by the campaign of Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general who is running unopposed to be the Democratic nominee for governor.
“I think it’s pretty clear that he’s going to be their nominee,” Shapiro told CNN.
It’s a strategy that campaigns across the country have used before – boosting the candidate the opposition believes would be the weakest candidate in the general election.
Yet in the final days before the Pennsylvania primary, Mastriano stood before supporters in western Pennsylvania and proudly claimed he was the “most conservative contender” vying for the Republican nomination in the post of governor.
Mastriano’s campaign has refused repeated requests for an interview or access to campaign events.
Mastriano, a retired U.S. Army colonel who has served in the state Senate since 2019, rose to national prominence in 2020, raising unfounded doubts about the results of Pennsylvania’s presidential election. Despite the vote tally showing Trump lost the state by more than 80,000 votes and no evidence of widespread voter fraud, Mastriano tried, but failed, to launch an Arizona-style partisan audit of the 2020 ballots.
Mastriano was also photographed outside the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, the day of the uprising. In a statement, he said he left before rioters stormed the Capitol.
On the Democratic side, Shapiro managed to clear the field of any meaningful competition, with strong party support.
Like Mastriano, the two-term state attorney general also gained national prominence in 2020, defending the outcome of Pennsylvania’s presidential election. Shapiro has faced the Trump campaign and its allies dozens of times in court, winning nearly every case brought against the state.
“The next governor here in Pennsylvania, the ultimate swing state, the epicenter of the battle to protect our democracy, will have a lot to say about the future of democracy,” Shapiro told CNN, noting that the governor would appoint the senior electoral official in the Commonwealth.
In the closing arguments of his campaign, Shapiro emphasizes not only the vote, but also the right to abortion. It’s a question that Democrats say in the wake of the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion will energize high-powered voters who worry Republicans if Mastriano becomes their nominee – suburban women .
In Philadelphia earlier this month, Shapiro rallied behind proponents of abortion access, portraying Mastriano as “an extremist.”
“I’m running against a group of extremists on the other side who want to take away basic freedoms from Pennsylvania, and I will oppose them,” Shapiro told CNN in an interview.
He then tightened on Mastriano
“I am someone who wants to protect women’s right to choose. He will ban abortion. I’m someone who wants to expand voting rights in Pennsylvania. He seeks to restrict them,” Shapiro said. “We think it’s important for the people of Pennsylvania … to know that there is a clear contrast between him and me.”
It’s a contrast Mastriano proudly proclaimed at his rally in Uniontown, Pennsylvania.
“It’s someone else’s body,” Mastriano told a crowd holding signs bearing his name. “And that someone, boy or girl, deserves all kinds of rights to life like anyone else in this room here.”