Doug Mastriano sticks to MAGA playbook in general election for Pennsylvania governor

He went on the podcast, which was hosted by former Donald Trump adviser and Stop the Steal leader Steve Bannon.

He appointed a former Trump campaign attorney who tried to overturn the Pennsylvania election as a top legal adviser for his campaign.

He has twice drawn parallels with Nazi Germany by criticizing political opponents.

And just last week Doug Mastriano shared a meme Taking to social media, they accused Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and other Democrats of “premeditated homicide” over their COVID-19 nursing home policies.

Most Republican candidates in Pennsylvania and across the country are pounding Democrats over gas prices, stubbornly high inflation, and killings in cities like Philadelphia.

Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, also addresses all of these issues. But in the five weeks since he won the May 17 primary, Mastriano has also stuck to the playbook that has made him a MAGA hero — making inflammatory comments about Democrats and the left, and reinforcing Trump’s false claims about voter fraud.

There are signs that most rank and file Republican officials are rallying behind Mastriano.

Days after the primary, a Spotlight PA reporter discovered Mastriano in a restaurant in Harrisburg with Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R., Westmoreland), who previously supported a rival.

The Senate GOP, which had banned Mastriano from attending caucus, changed course and welcomed him back. And after months in which Senate leaders effectively blocked the Mastriano legislation from moving forward, the chamber voted on June 6 his bill aimed at relaxing rules on partisan election observers.

This is despite comments underscoring why Pennsylvania Republican insiders were initially nervous about Mastriano’s candidacy — and unsuccessfully tried to stop him from winning the primary.

After an interviewer compared investigations into the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol to Nazi crackdowns on civil liberties after the 1933 German Bundestag fire, Mastriano said he agreed.

“I agree with the political, historical analogy there … using something that was very suspicious in Berlin to advance their agenda – you know, the Nazis there. I see parallels,” Mastriano told podcast host Ben Stein on June 10, after the congressional committee held its first prime-time televised public hearing on Jan. 6.

“We have, you know, people who have been publicly arrested for sending a message,” said Mastriano, who was outside the Capitol Jan. 6 and was subpoenaed by the committee. “I think what we’re seeing in America now makes McCarthy look like an amateur in the ’50s.”

Mastriano’s crackdown could work against Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro in November. Two polls this month show a close race, with Shapiro’s 3- or 4-point lead within margin of error. It’s still early in the race, and there are many unknowns — including how voters will react to Friday’s US Supreme Court decision Roe v. calf and end a constitutional right to abortion.

Both candidates have placed abortion policy at the heart of their campaigns, and Shapiro and other Democrats have already spent millions of dollars on television attacking Mastriano as an anti-abortion extremist.

Mastriano, facing a huge cash deficit, has not started airing TV ads in the general election. Outer Republican groups remain on the sidelines.

And Mastriano has avoided interviews with traditional news organizations like newspapers and local TV stations, which most politicians follow in order to reach the broader constituency. Instead, Mastriano has preferred to communicate directly with supporters on Facebook and give interviews to some of his conservative media friends.

“You can’t ignore the mainstream media. … You have to reach all the venues,” said Jackie Kulback, chairwoman of the Cambria County GOP, noting that there are about 540,000 more registered Democrats in Pennsylvania than Republicans. “If you limit yourself to just conservative media, you’re missing out on the voters you need to win in general.”

Mastriano’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Outside of Harrisburg, GOP activists say voters are excited about Mastriano’s candidacy.

“Doug Mastriano is exactly what people want right now,” said Northumberland County GOP Chairwoman Deb Betz. “You’ve just had enough.”

Former Lycoming County GOP chairman Vince Matteo said Republican voters in northern Pennsylvania are rallying behind Mastriano. “No one up here wants Josh Shapiro as governor because it’s four more years of Tom Wolf and his dictatorship,” he said.

Matteo encouraged Mastriano to focus on the economy and crime, not the 2020 election.

“I’m not downplaying the integrity of the elections, but it’s up to the legislature to pass laws that give people confidence,” he said.

Mastriano is unlikely to change focus. Earlier this month, he announced his campaign had recruited former Trump attorney and Rudy Giuliani aide Jenna Ellis as senior counsel — even as the congressional committee held Jan. 6 hearings containing testimonies from former top Trump aides, the electoral fraud lies contradicted.

For his part, Giuliani on Friday called Mastriano a “hero” for convening a November 2020 Legislative Assembly on election grievances and commended him for taking a stand against “RINOs” — Republicans in name only.

“That happens once in a generation when a real reformer comes along, a Ronald Reagan or a Donald Trump or a me that actually comes in and changes government,” Giuliani said at a campaign event in New York with Mastriano and Giuliani’s son. Andrew, running for governor in that state.

» READ MORE: What we know about Mastriano’s attempts to recoup Trump’s defeat in 2020

And in an interview with The Epoch Times, Mastriano reiterated his plan to require all 9 million registered voters in Pennsylvania to re-register: “I think that’s the best way to restore confidence in voting in our state.”

Constitutional scholars have said the idea violates federal law.

At the same time, there are signs of lukewarm support in some corners of the GOP. While the entire Republican congressional delegation in Pennsylvania this month issued a statement supporting Republican Mehmet Oz in the US Senate race, there was no such statement on Mastriano.

Some of his statements have made other Republicans on the ballot uncomfortable. After Mastriano doubled down on his comparison of U.S. gun control efforts to Adolf Hitler’s policies in Nazi Germany, the campaign arm of the U.S. House Democrats issued a press release asking if Republican congressional candidates agreed with that statement.

An official of Republican Lisa Scheller’s campaign in the embattled 7th District, where Democrat Susan Wild is the incumbent, reached out to Mastriano’s campaign after the episode, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The Scheller campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

It remains to be seen whether major donors will invest in Mastriano’s campaign. He had about $400,000 in his campaign account as of June 6, compared to more than $13 million for Shapiro, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination.

Mastriano said last week he had spoken to the Republican Governors Association and was “confident” he would get the group’s support. The RGA has booked airtime in several swing states, but not in Pennsylvania. An RGA spokesman tied Shapiro to President Joe Biden’s agenda, saying the group will “continue to monitor the race closely while voters learn more about Shapiro’s extreme positions that would make the Commonwealth worse off.”

» READ MORE: Doug Mastriano embodies a Christian nationalist movement as he runs for governor

It also remains to be seen whether the Commonwealth Partners Chamber of Entrepreneurs — an influential Conservative group that has spent about $13 million supporting one of Mastriano’s primary rivals — will get involved in the general election. The group’s president, Matt Brouillette, did not respond to a request for comment. Brouillette told conservative magazine The Dispatch earlier this month: “We would certainly hope to get behind a try from Mastriano but he has to show us that he’s viable and capable of beating Josh.”

Shapiro’s campaign is expected to announce support from current and former elected Pennsylvania Republicans in the coming weeks, according to a source familiar with the plans.

And several Republican insiders said they expect at least some GOP donors in southeastern Pennsylvania to support Shapiro. William Sasso, a Republican donor and former chairman of the Philadelphia-based law firm Stradley Ronon, recently hosted a fundraiser for Shapiro. Shapiro is a former advisor to the firm. Sasso said he admired Shapiro’s “judgment, integrity and commitment to Commonwealth citizens”.

But Mastriano says he will have enough money to win.

“Unlike Shapiro, we have a massive nationwide movement,” Mastriano told Conservative interviewer John Fredericks on June 21. “Yes, he has a lot of money, but the Republicans are really motivated.”

Staff writer Chris Brennan contributed to this article.

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