Oz-Mastriano: An awkward pair atop Pennsylvania’s GOP ticket

Oct 29, 2022, 9:01 AM | Updated: 9:09 am
FILE - Supporters gather to hear Mehmet Oz, left, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsyl...

FILE - Supporters gather to hear Mehmet Oz, left, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speak during a campaign event in Malvern, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson, File)

(AP Photo/Laurence Kesterson, File)

MALVERN, Pa. (AP) — On a chilly Saturday morning in mid-October, state and national Republican Party leaders made their way to a hotel patio restaurant in the critically important Philadelphia suburbs to energize loyalists heading into next month’s election that features an awkwardly fitting pair at the top of the Pennsylvania ticket.

After citing what they said were the failings of Democrats, the party officials introduced the keynote speaker: Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Senate nominee against Democrat John Fetterman in a race that could decide control of the chamber and the fate of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“I am excited to retire the name doctor and let’s make sure he’s a senator,” Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, told the crowd.

Nowhere in sight — and not even mentioned — was Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor against Democrat Josh Shapiro.

Oz, the heart surgeon-turned-TV celebrity, and Mastriano have national political winds at their back. But they are running dramatically different campaigns and targeting two very different types of voters — in ways that may hinder, rather than help, the other.

That dynamic is complicating a Republican path to victory in Pennsylvania on Nov. 8, strategists say, and forcing the GOP into an uneasy balancing act in which the two men only rarely appear together.

Party strategists said it makes sense to avoid Mastriano because he is trailing Shapiro in polls and running a far-right campaign that is driving off the moderate voters that Oz will need to beat Fetterman, the lieutenant governor.

Ryan Costello, a former Republican congressman who once represented this stretch of Chester County, said if he were running for office and were invited to a party event, “I would ask if Mastriano was coming and if they said ‘Yes,’ I would do something else. He’s horrible.”

Mastriano will lose Republican votes in Philadelphia’s moderate and heavily populated suburbs, just as Donald Trump did in his 2020 presidential election loss to Biden, Costello said.

GOP officials didn’t respond to questions about Mastriano.

The dynamic isn’t lost on Fetterman, who is continually tying Oz to Mastriano. In their Tuesday night debate, Fetterman interrupted Oz’s answer to a question on abortion to assert that “you roll with Doug Mastriano!”

The next day, Mastriano mentioned that line in a stump speech in Lancaster County, and chuckled about it –“I like that: Let’s roll together.” But he didn’t mention Oz, only Fetterman.

Like Mastriano, Oz has been endorsed by Trump. But unlike Mastriano, Oz hasn’t been warmly embraced by Trump’s most loyal voters — the ones that form Mastriano’s far-right base.

Mastriano has gone hard after the Trump bloc, sprinkling conspiracy theories about transgender youth into more mainstream GOP talking points on crime and inflation while refusing to answer questions from mainstream, independent news organizations. But that messaging, plus his blanket opposition to abortion, his peddling of Trump’s election lies and his presence outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 insurrection, has alienated moderates and GOP donors.

“It’s like he’s still running a primary campaign,” said Republican campaign strategist Bob Salera. “He’s not going anywhere. He’s not talking to any groups of people who already aren’t going to vote for him in the general election. He’s not inviting media into his events. He’s not getting a message out beyond his base.”

Oz, meanwhile, emphasizes national GOP talking points on crime and inflation, aiming to persuade swing voters and even Democrats. He has campaigned with mainstream GOP figures, including Nikki Haley, Trump’s U.N. ambassador, retiring two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, whom Oz hopes to succeed.

Mastriano has campaigned with far-right figures, including propagandists, QAnon conspiracy theorists, election deniers, self-described prophets and Christian nationalists such as Michael Flynn, who once led the U.S. military’s intelligence agency and now is at the center of a far-right Christian nationalist movement.

Toomey hasn’t endorsed Mastriano.

Mastriano had been set to speak at Flynn’s two-day ReAwaken America conference last weekend in Manheim, but skipped it without explanation. Most recently, he has campaigned with propagandist Jack Posobiec, perhaps best-known for peddling the conspiracy theory ” pizzagate, ” which suggested Hillary Clinton was running a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria.

“That’s who he surrounds himself with: white supremacists, extremists,” Shapiro, the two-term attorney general, said in an interview. “He’s the only candidate in the nation who is actively out recruiting white supremacists on Gab to be part of his campaign. So it shouldn’t surprise us. He’s the guy who wore the Confederate uniform on the grounds of the Army War College. This is who he is.”

Fetterman and Shapiro have no such issues appearing together. They show up at the same major party events and union rallies, such as one 30 miles away in Philadelphia where they threw an arm around each other and mugged for rallygoers’ cameras.

Mastriano can still help Oz, strategists say, by getting the party’s base to come out and vote for Oz. But Oz will have to attract moderate Republicans in places such as Chester County even if they refuse to support Mastriano, Costello said.

“And if he does, that’s where Oz wins,” Costello said.

Mike Mikus, a Democratic political strategist, said that kind of balance can work, but that Mastriano lacks the campaign cash to reach base GOP supporters who might not vote in a midterm election.

Those voters are critically necessary to motivate if the GOP is to win, Mikus said.

“There’s going to be high turnout,” Mikus said. “But there are going to be people who stay home because Oz can’t motivate them, and Mastriano would be able to motivate them, but doesn’t have the money or infrastructure to turn them out.”

___

Follow Marc Levy on Twitter: twitter.com/timelywriter.

___

Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter, https://twitter.com/ap_politics

Check out https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections to learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - Former President Donald Trump, left, and Michigan Republican attorney general candidate Matt...
Associated Press

Defeated election conspiracists seek to lead Michigan GOP

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Republicans who lost their races for Michigan’s top three statewide offices after promoting falsehoods about the 2020 presidential election are not planning to go quietly. Two of the candidates who denied President Joe Biden’s victory in the state have announced plans to run for the position that leads the state […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

Estonia to buy U.S. rocket artillery system in $200M deal

HELSINKI (AP) — NATO member and Russia’s neighbor Estonia is boosting its defense capabilities by acquiring an advanced U.S. rocket artillery system in the Baltic country’s largest arms procurement project ever, defense officials said Saturday. A deal signed Friday for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System is worth more than $200 million and includes equipment […]
6 hours ago
Migrant workers with their belongings leave a barricaded village after authorities' easing of COVID...
Associated Press

Beijing, Shenzhen scrap COVID-19 tests for public transport

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities on Saturday announced a further easing of COVID-19 curbs with major cities such as Shenzhen and Beijing no longer requiring negative tests to take public transport. The slight relaxation of testing requirements comes even as daily virus infections reach near-record highs, and follows weekend protests across the country by residents […]
6 hours ago
A police officer tries to keep the roadway clear as people come to view the Mauna Loa volcano as it...
Associated Press

Molten lava on Hawaii’s Big Island could block main highway

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Many people on the Big Island of Hawaii are bracing for major upheaval if lava from Mauna Loa volcano slides across a key highway and blocks the quickest route connecting two sides of the island. The molten rock could make the road impassable and force drivers to find alternate coastal routes […]
6 hours ago
Associated Press

US condemns shooting at Pakistan’s embassy in Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The U.S. on Saturday condemned an attack a day earlier on the Pakistani embassy in Afghanistan’s capital, in which a senior Pakistani diplomat escaped unhurt but one of his Pakistani guards was wounded, sending a wave of anger in this Islamic nation. Friday’s assault comes amid rising tensions between the South Asian […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Residents queue at a bank branch in Kherson, southern Ukraine, Nov. 21, 2022. Even as Ukrain...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Can Ukraine pay for war without wrecking economy?

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Even as Ukraine celebrates recent battlefield victories, its government faces a looming challenge on the financial front: how to pay the enormous cost of the war effort without triggering out-of-control price spikes for ordinary people or piling up debt that could hamper postwar reconstruction. The struggle is finding loans or donations […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...
DESERT INSTITUTE FOR SPINE CARE

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
...
Quantum Fiber

Stream 4K and more with powerful, high-speed fiber internet

Picking which streaming services to subscribe to are difficult choices, and there is no room for internet that cannot handle increased demands.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Oz-Mastriano: An awkward pair atop Pennsylvania’s GOP ticket