Democrats have been playing a dangerous game by boosting hardline MAGA Republicans in primaries across the country. Some have started to worry the party made a mistake in the case of Doug Mastriano, the GOP nominee for governor of Pennsylvania.
Democracy dies in dumbness?
Mastriano’s general election opponent, Democratic former Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, paid $840,000 for an ad labeling Mastriano “one of Donald Trump’s strongest supporters.”
A little bit of McCaskill-jitsu from the Josh Shapiro PA-Gov campaign ahead of the primary?
Shapiro's new ad "attacks" GOP polling leader Doug Mastriano for writing the heartbeat bill, being one of Trump's strongest supporters, and leading the fight to audit the 2020 election. pic.twitter.com/OiBsfmr8xE
— Jacob Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) May 5, 2022
The Pennsylvania Democratic Party also purchased mailers touting Mastriano’s MAGA bona fides.
- On May 14, Trump endorsed Mastriano, a retired Army colonel, state senator and prominent “Stop the Steal” advocate, and Mastriano clinched the nomination with 43.8% of the vote in a five-way race on May 17.
- Asked days later by CNN’s Dana Bash if it was irresponsible to boost a candidate he described as a “danger to democracy,” Shapiro claimed he was just getting an early start on the general election.
Recent polling of the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race — showing Mastriano just three or four points behind Shapiro — “served as a wake-up call for Democrats,” Politico reported Tuesday.
- Larry Ceisler, a Pennsylvania political consultant who is backing Shapiro, told Politico: “Most people are in a little bubble, where they talk to one other and say, ‘Boy, there’s no way Doug Mastriano can beat Josh Shapiro.’ Well, you know what? Those people don’t get off the turnpike. It wakes some people as to: It’s a real campaign, and yes, there really are people who are for Doug Mastriano, and this is not going to be a walk in the park.”
- Andrew Seidman, a Philadelphia Inquirer staff writer, told Vox in May that some establishment Republicans who thought Mastriano “had no shot” before the election had started saying “perhaps even Mastriano could ride a red wave and win.”
SAME ENERGY: A number of centrist Republicans endorsed Shapiro last month, calling Mastriano “dangerous” and “extreme.”
- But, according to Politico, “Some Pennsylvania GOP power players, suddenly feeling more positive, have privately and publicly encouraged the Republican Governors Association to take another look at Mastriano and consider helping him financially.”
WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA?
The most recent example of Democrats meddling in a GOP primary on behalf of a Trump-aligned candidate came in Maryland, which holds its primaries Tuesday.
- The Democratic Governors Association spent over $1 million to boost the fortunes of Dan Cox, endorsed by Trump, against moderate Kelly Schulz, blessed by outgoing moderate Republican governor Larry Hogan, per Politico.
- The group targeted its Facebook and Instagram ads on behalf of Cox at a prototypical female voter who “loves hunting and country music, has no interest in yoga or public libraries and lives in one of America’s wealthiest ZIP codes,” Axios reported Tuesday.
“This isn’t the first time a party has worked to choose its own opponent … and Maryland isn’t the only state where Dems have done it this year,” Politico Playbook noted in a roundup Tuesday.
- “They succeeded in boosting Trump-aligned … Darren Bailey in Illinois. They’re attempting it in Arizona right now with Kari Lake. They tried (unsuccessfully) to do it in Colorado by giving an assist to two 2020 election deniers.”
Democratic strategist Howard Wolfson, echoing other Cassandras, warned Politico: The Democratic Party putting people into positions where they may actually get elected and have control over the election system in this country — people who don’t believe in democracy — is a very, very risky strategy. Very dangerous.”
- But Democratic Governors’ Association political director Marhall Cohen defended the primary shenanigans in a video interview with Politico, saying, “We’re not going to wait around for primaries to happen. I think the risk is electing any Republican to the governor’s office in 2022.”