In 1855, Abraham Lincoln voluntarily destroyed his best chances of becoming a U.S. Senator from Illinois. Even though multiple rounds of balloting showed Lincoln enjoyed the greatest support, the number of candidates caused a split vote that created an opening for pro-slavery “Douglas Democrats” to win the seat.

Lincoln eventually withdrew, putting his own self-interest behind that of the wider political cause.

Pennsylvania needs a Lincoln now.

      *          *          *

State Senator Doug Mastriano represents only a small portion of Republican voters in Pennsylvania, and an even smaller portion of Pennsylvania voters writ large. Yet, by any objective measure, he is on track to be a major party nominee for governor. At this late stage, who among the rest of the Republican candidates will be willing to temporarily sacrifice their own ambitions for the good of the commonwealth and the country?

Both the Senate and gubernatorial races have all the remarkable chaos inherent to the democratic process: nearly a dozen theoretically qualified candidates, an energized electorate, and what may end up being the most important statewide election in decades. When the dust settles, it looks like one candidate could win with a small minority of the votes, and that candidate could end up being a tremendous liability to his party and the people he aims to serve. 

According to the current RealClearPolitics average of public polling, Mastriano leads the race for the GOP gubernatorial nomination with 24 percent of the vote. The next closest candidates are former U.S. Congressman Lou Barletta, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, and former Delaware County Councilman David White, in that order. 

While the fact that many Republican voters claim to be undecided looms large, Mastriano has made a name for himself by strutting as an ideologically inflexible purist. He touts a populist nationalism that can attract enough of a crowd but has a ceiling.

READ MORE — Kyle Sammin: Pennsylvania needs ranked-choice voting

This is important because Mastriano is not capturing an emerging majority of the Republican electorate. He is not the far-right version of what we are seeing in the Democratic Senate primary, where our silver-spoon socialist Lieutenant Governor, John Fetterman, is crushing his eminently electable opponent U.S. Rep. Connor Lamb in the polls.  Indeed, that race truly does tell us something unsettling about the center of gravity in today’s Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Yet Mastrano is winning because he is running in his own lane. His closest polling opponents, Barletta, McSwain, and White, all have relatively similar and mainstream platforms that include comprehensive education reform, common sense energy and environmental policies, and valuing law and order and fiscal responsibility. 

Mastriano, for his part, has taken far more radical stances that are emblematic of Christian nationalism and bellicose partisan politics.  

Mastriano has repeatedly demonstrated that he possesses neither the disposition nor the temperament to win this election or form a governing consensus. He has consistently alienated those that question his self-styled righteous indignation, as most recently evidenced by his bad behavior during a recent interview with Delaware Valley Journal, where he was reasonably asked to clarify his claims regarding the 2020 election. 

This is not to say that Senator Mastriano is the caricature too often peddled by incumbent media interests in the commonwealth. His patriotism is evidenced by his military service. This publication has well documented the myriad problems with how the commonwealth administered the 2020 election. And while the senator was wrong to support the historic changes to the commonwealth’s election code that enabled many of these problems, he is right to provide a robust critique in retrospect and insist upon election reform.

Yet the fact remains, the ideologically erratic Mostriano is not capable of winning 50.1 percent of the vote. There are multiple candidates that would better represent the Republican Party, both as a matter of principle and practicality. 

Are any candidates in the race today willing to step aside now and become Pennsylvania’s Lincoln?

So how did we get here? Why, a week away from the primary, has the field not been cleared for one or two electable Republicans who actually represent the views of a majority of the party’s voters? 

Historically, it has been the party’s job to sort this type of thing out. In fact, this might be the only truly useful thing that political parties can still do unencumbered.

It’s not just that the Pennsylvania GOP has failed to coax candidates to make the kind of virtuous decisions that their paid consultants never would — egregiously, it chose to do absolutely nothing at all. The state committee failed to endorse any candidate for governor (or senator), leaving endorsements up to county or municipal party organizations, or no one at all.

Because the party — and those who inform its thinking — failed to choose between the mainstream, acceptable candidates, Mastriano is poised to win a primary and lose a general election in what is arguably the most favorable political environment for Republicans in a generation. 

It is too late now to call upon the Republican party to remedy this situation. Indeed, it is likely too late to change a significant number of hearts and minds. Now, it is merely a matter of arithmetic.

Who then, can save the Pennsylvania GOP from Mastriano and defeat in the general election this fall? 

When Lincoln removed himself from the 1855 Senatorial contest, he not only furthered the anti-slavery causes he held so dear; by putting the cause ahead of his own political aspirations, he won friends and allies that would help catapult him to the presidency in 1860.

If it worked for Lincoln, it could work for any of the electable candidates currently polling in the teens. But will any of them put their own aspirations aside to do what’s best for the state and the conservative movement by sparing both from a Doug Mastriano nomination? Are any candidates in the race today willing to step aside now and become Pennsylvania’s Lincoln? 

Terry Tracy is President & CEO of Broad + Liberty.

8 thoughts on “Terry Tracy: Who will stop Doug Mastriano from sinking the Republican ticket?”

  1. A fair article. And does underscore the split in the party and the ineffectiveness of leadership. The split is chamber of commerce types versus America First and the ineffectiveness is the failure of the party to manage the process to put the party in the best position to win (which I assume is indicative of their ideological split).

  2. This is the problem with closed primaries. We need to open them up so that independent voters can vote, and candidates have to appeal to independents/moderates as well, not just the extremes of their party.

  3. So, whose to say who the best candidate is for the party? Like is there a checklist that the establishment decides? Back door dealmaking? The greasing of palms? Since clearly, we voters don’t have a say anyway…

    I am glad Mastriano is different from the pack of “whatevers.” Sick of establishment candidates… “Politically correct,” humans.. BORING. Ya’all say the same things, dress the same, same talking points, blah blah blah.

    And whose to say whether or not he will loose to Shapiro? Unless one has time traveled, the FUTURE is UNKNOWN…


    Why is Shapiro not lambasted by the GOP, to help Mastriano? Its clear Mastriano will win the primary.. more than likely. But instead, he is attacked by HIS OWN SIDE.. RELENTLESSLY.

    Its almost “AS IF” the RINO establishment and the DEMS are working “in-tandem?” Hmmmm

    Unheard of, right?

    I will be voting for him, BECAUSE the GOP attacks him….. this tells me all I need to know…

    1. If you really want to vote for someone the GOP attacks and has been attacking for years .. will not even include him in the polls, VOTE JOE GALE. Check him out. Based on your comments, he is the guy for you. Not owned by the GOP.

  4. I left Carbon County Friday morning on a weekend getaway; I traveled south on 81 to the Harrisburg area, then up 322 past State College, all the way to Clearfield, then up 153 and 219 through Elk County and into McKean County, and back east clear across Rt 6, all the way to the greater Wyoming Valley. From the time I crossed the Susquehanna River on 322, near Duncannon, until the time I passed through Mansfield on Rt 6, I saw nothing but Mastriano signs. If I saw 400 governor signs in these stretches, I swear 395 were for Mastriano. Once back in the northeast, from Mansfield to the Wyoming Valley, almost all governor signs along 6 were for Barletta.
    Just one guy’s observation~

  5. State Senator Doug Mastriano was there for the people during the outrageous Wolf dictatorship.
    I have more allegiance to his actions during that crises then I have to the inept republican party of Pennsylvania.

  6. I can’t remember when, if ever, the State GOP has been effective. Why should that change now?

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