PITTSBURGH — A last-ditch effort by some Pennsylvania Republicans to consolidate a crowded Republican gubernatorial field around an alternative to an election skeptic may be too little, too late, according to recent polls.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano is the front-runner in the field just days before Tuesday’s primary, but some in the state worry that he could win the Republican primary by a plurality but go on to lose the general election in the fall.
PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICANS DON'T WANT ELECTION SKEPTIC TO WIN GUBERNATORIAL NOD
Mastriano is running as a hard-right candidate, and he recently told NBC News he would make Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis look like an “amateur.”
“We love you, Ron, but this is Pennsylvania,” Mastriano told NBC. “This is where the light of liberty was set in 1776, where this nation was born.”
But Pennsylvania is a key battleground state, and some Republicans worry about his electability in a statewide race. Mastriano is a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and backed his claims that the 2020 election was stolen. Mastriano also faces questions about his attendance at a QAnon-linked event in Gettysburg and at the Washington, D.C., rally that took place before the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Trump has not made an endorsement in the race, although he endorsed television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz in the Senate race and a slew of congressional candidates in Pennsylvania.
But as the race draws to a close, Mastriano leads the crowded field. A poll by the Trafalgar Group found him leading the field with 27.6%, followed by former Rep. Lou Barletta at 17.6%.
New @trafalgar_group #PAGov ‘22 #GOP Primary #Poll shows Mastriano lead #PApol— The Trafalgar Group (@trafalgar_group) May 9, 2022
Report: https://t.co/fyDFGjyish pic.twitter.com/kgQzgKkmj5
Another recent poll by Fox News had similar results, finding Mastriano in the lead with 29%, followed by Barletta at 17%.
But some Republicans in the state are concerned about Mastriano’s chances in the fall against state Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the presumptive Democratic nominee for Pennsylvania governor. Shapiro appears eager to run against Mastriano, releasing an ad campaign designed to boost him.
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Another candidate, Jake Corman announced Thursday that he would exit the race for governor to endorse Barletta. The move was seen as an attempt to coalesce the field around Barletta. At a Thursday press conference, the two men were muted in their criticism of Mastriano, framing the move as an attempt to make sure Republican voters choose a candidate positioned to defeat Shapiro in November. On Friday, former Rep. Melissa Hart also exited the GOP gubernatorial primary race to endorse Barletta for a similar purpose. Hart had been polling at about 3%-4% in the crowded field.
Republicans have lost four of the last five gubernatorial races in the Keystone State, but Republicans hope a midterm election cycle projected to favor Republicans may help their chances of winning the governor’s mansion. The Cook Political Report has ranked the race as a toss-up.