GOP breathes sigh of relief as one of their worst 2022 candidates passes on Senate bid

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano

Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano unexpectedly announced Thursday evening that he’d stay out of the GOP primary to take on Democratic Sen. Bob Casey, a move that will come as a huge relief to national Republicans. The QAnon ally last year suffered a blowout 56-42 loss to now-Gov. Josh Shapiro after waging an underfunded and chaotic campaign, and Senate Republicans made it quite clear that they dreaded the idea of having him as their nominee.

The person that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and his allies actually want to take on Casey is wealthy businessman Dave McCormick, and he’ll likely also be happy that Mastriano is giving the race a pass. Several unnamed sources told Bloomberg’s Jonathan Tamari earlier in the week that McCormick was afraid that a primary could be an expensive endeavor that could leave him weakened ahead of the general election. Some McCormick allies saw things otherwise and argued that a win over a far-right figure like Mastriano would help him appear less extreme by comparison, but they won’t get to test that hypothesis now.

Mastriano, for his part, had previously insisted he’d already reached a decision about his plans, and he sounded likely to run into this week. “Of any of the detractors, none have had the cojones to look me in the eye and have a conversation,” he told reports on Monday. He added of the intra-party criticism, “It’s irrelevant to me. It’s the tree falling in the forest, nobody hears it.” Despite GOP fears to the contrary, though, it’s Mastriano that no one will be hearing from in next year’s Senate race.

How can Democrats win the messaging war? It turns out there’s actually a science to it, as strategic communications consultant Anat Shenker-Osorio tells us on this week’s episode of “The Downballot.” Shenker-Osorio explains how her research shows the importance of treating voters as protagonists; how Democrats can avoid ceding “freedom” to Republicans by emphasizing “freedoms,” plural; and why it actually makes sense to call out “MAGA Republicans” (even though, yes, it’s all Republicans).

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