Pennsylvania is set to once again be the major battleground during a midterm cycle. Open races for Governor and for Senator make this a fun midterm season in the Keystone State, and with the environment looking the way it is, theoretically Republicans from my home state should be excited. With President Biden unpopular and the GOP looking stronger on the generic ballot, it seems to be set up exactly for Republicans to hold the Senate seat and flip the Governor’s mansion.
Even history is on the PA GOPs side here; Pennsylvania hasn’t elected consecutive Governors of the same party since the 1960s. Since then, we’ve gone back and forth from Democratic to Republican leadership. However, Republicans have to get through a crowded primary process again, and have to make sure they do not nominate one man.
Doug the Future Disaster
That candidate is the walking controversy himself Doug Mastriano, a State Senator from Franklin County. To put it simply, he is Pennsylvania’s version of Virginia State Senator Amanda Chase. A person on the relative edge of their party who spreads conspiracy theories about most topics, is running on the falsehood that the 2020 election was somehow stolen, and believes it is their god-given right to be Governor of their state.
Mastriano, like Chase, has the ear of a certain section of GOP primary voters. And also like Amanda Chase, he has upset most of the party leaders and grassroots, leading to most of them being against his candidacy. This does not mean he is anywhere close to being defeated. Like I said, he does have the ear of a faction of primary voters. Mastriano also has a large social media presence, although his Facebook presence has been shrunk recently.
Social media presence has been a key piece of the puzzle for politicians like Mastriano. Most crucially on Facebook, where he can target an older, primary voting, demographic. And this is hard to stop. However, Mastriano is not taken lightly by the party. Stronger candidates than 2018 have grabbed attention in this field.
Three other candidates are at this point the clearer favorites for the GOP than Mastriano is. First there’s 2018 Senate nominee Lou Barletta. Barletta already is a long time favorite of the populist right, and fit well in with MAGA world. Most indicate that Barletta was an early favorite for the Trump endorsement.
However, that has seemingly passed by for Barletta’s campaign. People I’ve talked to now believe that Trump will not endorse anyone in the Governor’s primary in Pennsylvania. This is bad news for not just Mastriano, but Barletta and Bill McSwain as well, all who were looking to capitalize on their ties to Trump.
The real surprise who may be coming out of this primary is Delaware County businessman Dave White. White is a relatively wealthy businessman (he’s put at least $3 million of his own money into the campaign so far) with ties to multiple blue-collar unions. White has surprisingly won three of four area–level caucuses so far, which is key headed into the state GOP convention this upcoming Saturday.
The question ends up being if this turns into any actual momentum for White at the ballot box come primary day. If it does, White could easily zoom up the field and have a shot at winning this primary.
However, even with all this movement, I’d still say Barletta is a slight favorite. His name recognition can’t be beat from the 2018 run, and in such a split field, it may be enough to pull him over the line. This is going to be one of the more fascinating statewide primaries to watch in 2022, just due to the massive field alone. There are dangers for Pennsylvania Republicans, as well as potential rewards. Whether they can get the right candidate from this field though, remains to be seen.