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

Oct 29, 2022, 9:01 AM | Updated: 9:09 am

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.


Lead water pipes pulled from underneath the street are seen in Newark, N.J., Oct. 21, 2021. (AP Pho...

Associated Press

Biden to require cities to replace harmful lead pipes within 10 years

The Biden administration has previously said it wants all of the nation's roughly 9 million lead pipes to be removed, and rapidly.

18 hours ago

Facebook's Meta logo sign is seen at the company headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., on, Oct. 28, 2...

Associated Press

Meta shuts down thousands of fake Facebook accounts that were primed to polarize voters ahead of 2024

Meta said it removed 4789 Facebook accounts in China that targeted the United States before next year’s election.

20 hours ago

A demonstrator in Tel Aviv holds a sign calling for a cease-fire in the Hamas-Israel war on Nov. 21...

Associated Press

Hamas releases a third group of hostages as part of truce, and says it will seek to extend the deal

The fragile cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was back on track Sunday as the first American was released under a four-day truce.

6 days ago

Men look over the site of a deadly explosion at Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, Oct. 18, ...

Associated Press

New AP analysis of last month’s deadly Gaza hospital explosion rules out widely cited video

The Associated Press is publishing an updated visual analysis of the deadly Oct. 17 explosion at Gaza's Al-Ahli Hospital.

9 days ago

Peggy Simpson holds a photograph of law enforcement carrying Lee Harvey Oswald's gun through a hall...

Associated Press

JFK assassination remembered 60 years later by surviving witnesses to history, including AP reporter

Peggy Simpson is among the last surviving witnesses who are sharing their stories as the nation marks the 60th anniversary.

9 days ago

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Sunday, ...

Associated Press

Israeli Cabinet approves cease-fire with Hamas; deal includes release of 50 hostages

Israel’s Cabinet on Wednesday approved a cease-fire deal with the Hamas militant group that would bring a temporary halt to a devastating war.

10 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @KTAR923...

The best ways to honor our heroes on Veterans Day and give back to the community

Veterans Day is fast approaching and there's no better way to support our veterans than to donate to the Military Assistance Mission.



Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

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