Republicans are doing everything they can to lose the Pennsylvania governor’s race | CNN Politics


If you had to pick a single race as the most important one on the ballot this November, the winner would almost certainly be the Pennsylvania governor’s contest.

The state, after all, has been incredibly closely contested in the last two presidential elections – Donald Trump won it in 2016, Joe Biden in 2020 – and is expected to be one of the top swing states again in 2024. And the governor has wide authority in overseeing the state’s election apparatus.

That prize position makes what is happening in the state all the more remarkable: Republicans – specifically, their nominee, state Sen. Doug Mastriano – appear to be doing absolutely everything they can to lose the race.

The latest? Controversial comments surfaced this week that Mastriano made in 2019, when he was talking about abortion legislation he was sponsoring at the time as a state representative. Mastriano said that if a woman had an abortion after fetal cardiac activity was detected – which can happen as early as six weeks – that she could be charged with murder.

Mastriano’s campaign hasn’t returned CNN’s request for comment. Josh Shapiro’s campaign jumped on the Republican’s past remarks. “Mastriano has the most extreme anti-choice position in the country – and there is no limit to how far he would go to take away Pennsylvania women’s freedom,” said Manuel Bonder, a Shapiro spokesman.

The Mastriano abortion comments were reported the same day Shapiro announced raising more than $25 million from June 7 to September 19, a towering figure that that has helped fueled a massive TV ad campaign and define the terms of the race in the Democrat’s favor. During that same period, Mastriano raised just over $3 million. Shapiro also had four times as much money as Mastriano left to spend on the race.

Mastriano is running one of the most unorthodox campaigns ever in such a high-profile race. He has not run a single television ad in the general election. He doesn’t do interviews with mainstream media, choosing instead to deal with conservative media outlets. As the Philadelphia Inquirer recently reported:

“As he tours the Commonwealth, Mastriano has essentially walled himself off from the general public, traveling within a bubble of security guards and jittery aides who aim to not only keep him safe, but ensure he only comes into contact with true believers.”

While that strategy – coupled with an endorsement from Donald Trump, who was drawn to Mastriano’s outspoken election denialism – paid dividends in a crowded Republican primary, it has not worked nearly as well in the general election to date.

A Marist College poll released this week showed Shapiro with a comfortable 53% to 40% lead over Mastriano among registered voters, consistent with other surveys that have shown the Democrat with a double-digit edge.

On Wednesday, the Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, a nonpartisan campaign handicapper, moved the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race from “leans Democratic” to “likely Democratic” – a reflection of the lack of competitiveness offered up by Mastriano.

“[T]he gap in candidate quality between the major-party nominees is one of the biggest of any statewide contest this cycle,” they wrote.

Given the stakes in the state, it is, quite frankly, shocking that Republicans have nominated a candidate as flawed as Mastriano as their standard-bearer. And he looks headed to a defeat that could set back the party for years in the state.

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