Josh Shapiro (D) is helping Doug Mastriano win the GOP's Nomination in PA

Haley Stevens - Photo Credit: Congress


By: Logan Phillips

Date: May 13th

An influential outsider has weighted into the Pennsylvania Republican Governor Primary at the last minute to crown his chosen candidate with the nomination. His name is not Donald Trump, but Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the soon-to-be nominee of the Democratic party for Governor.

Senator Claire McCaskill’s “attack ad” against Todd Aiken helped him win the nomination in 2012.

Shapiro is taking a page out of Claire McCaskill’s 2012 successful Senate campaign. She bet that Todd Aiken, a far-right politician with a penchant for saying things that offended people, would be the easiest to beat. She lent Aiken’s campaign a hand, and spent far more on television advertisements than the poorly funded Aiken could afford on their own, “warning” Republican Missouri voters that Todd Aiken was much too conservative for the state. Aiken won the primary, and unsurprisingly made extreme comments in the general election that helped seal his defeat, enabling McCaskill to survive another term in a state rapidly turning into a Republican stronghold.

In the Pennsylvania 2022 Governor Race, Josh Shapiro has settled on Doug Mastriano as the easiest candidate to beat, and it’s not hard to see why. Mastriano spent months trying to overturn the last election, and replace Pennsylvania voter’s decision to cast their 20 electoral votes for Joe Biden with his own choice of Donald Trump.

He attended the rally on January 6th and spent months trying to overturn the last election, including a bombastic speech next to Rudy Giuliani just a few weeks after his infamous speech at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. Mastriano also supports bans on abortion the moment after contraception with no exceptions for rape or the life of the mother, which is a position that one poll by Franklin and Marshall found that only 16% of Pennsylvania voters hold

Josh Shapiro “warns” Republicans that vote for Mastriano would be like a vote for Donald Trump.

Shapiro has enough money to try and replicate McCaskill’s strategy, after shattering state records for early fundraising, powered by an enormous treasure trove of small-dollar donors. He has launched an expensive ad buy in the closing moments of the primary that highlights the specific positions and record of Mastriano that would both impress Republican primary voters while turning off swing voters. 

However, it could almost be mistaken for a Mastriano ad – the kind that candidates do with digital ads that target just their supporters, and not the general electorate. It highlights his pro-life ambition, and his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s victory over Donald Trump in Pennsylvania. It even closes by saying “If Mastriano wins, it’s a win for what Donald Trump stands for.”

If there were any doubts about Shapiro’s intentions, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has removed them by sending mailers with similar messages specifically to GOP primary voters. No campaign would waste ads only targeting the voters they are least likely to win without a special reason. 

RacetotheWH 2022 PA Governor Predictions

Explore the latest predictions from our interactive PA Governor Forecast, including for the primaries. We recently correctly predicted the Ohio and Nebraska primaries.

Mastriano, for his part, is more than happy for the boost from Shapiro. He told Lancaster Online that “I’m going to have to send him a thank you card”. It’s a real asset, especially considering that the Republican candidates have struggled to raise anywhere near the amount of money. Shapiro has raised $17.9 million, while Mastriano has only $1.4 million.

All indications shows that the strategy is working. Mastriano has zoomed ahead to first place in the primary in the last week, rising from 19% to almost 25% in our polling average. Our PA Primary Forecast now gives Mastriano an over 50% chance of becoming the nominee. It’s still competitive though. The easiest voters to lose in a primary are the ones that just embraced your campaign last week, and he will be targeted aggressively by the rest of the field in the closing week of the campaign.

Shapiro’s campaign must be confident that they would enter the campaign cycle with the upper hand against Mastriano to spend resources to promote him. A new GOP internal poll, now included in our PA forecast, showed Shapiro beating Mastriano by 9%. Chances are high Shapiro is seeing similar results in his internal polls. He’s also likely found that he can expand that advantage considerably after highlighting some of the more extreme pieces of Mastriano's record (the same GOP internal poll found his lead expanded to 12%, and that he was able to win over 20% of GOP voters).

2022 PA Senate Predictions

The PA Senate Primary is on Tuesday, and our forecast predicts who will win in both the Democratic and Republican primaries. We also feature an interactive general election forecast that shows who would be most likely to win, depending on the nominees.

Of course, Shapiro’s bet could end up being wrong. Our Pennsylvania Governor forecast shows that Mastriano would be the weakest candidate against Shapiro, but he still has almost a 20% chance of winning. If this Governor's primary ends up being close, and Mastriano wins the Governorship, Shapiro could end up helping elect Democrats’ worse nightmare into the Governor’s office. If Mastriano’s actions related to voting in 2020 are any indicator, he would likely do everything in his power to prevent the Democrat candidate from winning in 2024, even if it’s well beyond the bounds of the law or democratic norms

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