Possible Mastriano Senate Bid Terrifies Keystone State Republicans

Doug Mastriano

Doug Mastriano

When Politico's Holly Otterbein reported, in early March, that Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano (a far-right MAGA Republican) was seriously considering a U.S. Senate run for 2024, she predicted that the news was "sure to give GOP leaders heart palpitations." Otterbein's prediction was spot on.

According to reporting in The Hill, Republican strategists fear that if Mastriano decides to run and receives his party's nomination, it would doom their chances of capturing the U.S. Senate seat presently held by three-term incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA).

Mastriano is the QAnon-friendly conspiracy theorist, election denialist, and Christian nationalist who ran against Democratic now-Gov. Josh Shapiro in Pennsylvania in 2022 and lost by 15 percent. Shapiro's campaign ads slammed Mastriano as a dangerous extremist, noting his ties to Gab (a favorite among white nationalists) and his opposition to abortion under any circumstances.

Now, Republican strategists fear that Mastriano could cause them to lose another statewide race in the Keystone State.

In an article published by The Hillon March 15, journalist Al Weaver reports, "The prospect of a Pennsylvania Senate bid by State Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) has Republicans feeling a sense of déjà vu and reigniting fears that he could cost them up and down the ballot. The state and national GOP machinery is lining up solidly behind David McCormick, who was narrowly defeated in the 2022 Senate primary, believing he's the party's only chance to defeat Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) in what could be a tough presidential cycle. Put simply, it's McCormick or bust for Republicans in Pennsylvania and in the U.S. Senate."

One of the Pennsylvania Republicans who is hoping that McCormick runs and wins the nomination is someone who once held that U.S. Senate seat: Rick Santorum. In 2006, Santorum was voted out of the Senate when he lost to Casey, the son of the late Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey, Sr. The younger Casey was reelected in 2012 and 2018, and a victory in 2024 would give him a fourth term in the U.S. Senate.

The centrist Casey, Jr., in 2006, attacked Santorum, a strident social conservative known for his anti-gay views, as being too far to the right. But Mastriano is even to the right of Santorum.

Santorum told The Hill, "A lot of people want [McCormick] to run, put it that way. I think Pennsylvanians have learned a lesson here, and (the) lesson is you go with candidates that are strong principled conservatives that don’t have baggage that can hurt you in a general election.… Tying yourself to the [stolen] election stuff and tying yourself too close to (former President Donald) Trump is destructive. It hurt the entire ticket [in 2022]."

A Republican operative in Pennsylvania, interviewed on condition of anonymity, believes that Mastriano hasn't learned anything from his 15 percent loss to Shapiro.

That Republican told The Hill, "Usually, when you get your pants taken down on a statewide scale, a race that has national attention, you don't want to go for it again because there's some level of embarrassment people feel. That's clearly not the case with [Mastriano]. I think he lives in his own la-la land…. He's a lost cause."

But if Mastriano does run for the Senate he has, according to Public Policy Polling (PPP), a good chance of winning the nomination. PPP, in a poll of Pennsylvania-based Republican voters released on March 13, found that McCormick would lose to Mastriano by 14 percent in a hypothetical matchup. Among those voters, Mastriano had a 47 percent favorability rating compared to only 22 percent for McCormick.

The Philadelphia-based Otterbein, in an article published by Politico on March 14, notes that Mastriano's hardcore supporters from 2022 haven't given up on him despite his 15 percent loss.

Jamie Crowe, a Mastriano supporter and conspiracy theorist who favors releasing all of the January 6, 2021 rioters from jail, believes that the 2022 election was stolen from Mastriano — a claim that there is absolutely no evidence to support.

Crowe told Politico, "Doug Mastriano's a true patriot. He's for the American people. He's for the state of Pennsylvania…. Doug Mastriano won that election. It was a false election, and I think the people know that it was a false election."

Crowe, according to Otterbein, is a prime example of what McCormick and the GOP establishment will be up against if McCormick runs.

"In a midterm cycle that was disappointing for the GOP across the country [in 2022]," Otterbein explains, "Pennsylvania Republicans were among the biggest losers. Along with Mastriano's flogging, GOP candidates fell short in the Senate contest and the majority of state House races."

Reprinted with permission from Alternet.

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