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Disaster in Pennsylvania

If we actually care about unborn life, and making sure children are not taught to hate themselves in schools, then we have to actually win elections.

Dr. Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano deliver remarks during a rally in Latrobe
(Photo by Kyle Mazza/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

It shouldn't have been hard for Republicans to win in Pennsylvania. Joe Biden is tremendously unpopular. Inflation is up over 8 percent. The Democrats nominated an invalid for Senate who was a lunatic before he had a stroke. The outgoing Wolf administration had presided over nearly eight years of radical progressivism in a commonwealth that is neither radical nor progressive.

And Republicans managed to blow it.

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Whatever success Trump-endorsed candidates had Tuesday night, none was had by candidates in Pennsylvania. Both Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano flopped in what could have been a wave cycle for Republicans. Oz lost to a stroke patient who couldn't speak in coherent sentences. Mastriano lost to a Wolf administration holdover by double digits. John Fetterman had lawyered up, apparently preparing for lawfare, but it wasn't necessary. Both races were over before midnight.

Oz is a Democrat at heart, and it showed on the campaign trail. He tweeted his support for a federal gay marriage initiative totally without prompting. His infamous video griping about the price of crudite was emblematic of his whole campaign—he was an outsider in the worst way. Michael Brendan Dougherty observed that Oz was uncomfortable defending Republican priorities in debate and was unschooled in conservative arguments. In his opening statement in his debate with John Fetterman, he warned that "Fetterman takes everything to an extreme," which is the sort of contentless accusation that indicates a person has no idea what he's talking about.

He underperformed in almost every rural county in the commonwealth, tallying thousands fewer votes than Trump did in 2020 in counties such as Cumberland, Washington, and Warren. His messaging improved as the campaign wore on, but Fetterman, if nothing else, was right that Oz was not a man of Pennsylvania.

Oz at least tried to win. He campaigned hard, and overcame a sizable gap in the polls. By all accounts, he was sharp in private and a quick study on the trail.

The same cannot be said for Doug Mastriano, a state senator hand-picked by Donald Trump in the primary for defending the former president's strongest allegations about the 2020 election. Trump was not alone in wanting Mastriano to represent the Republicans in the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race; Mastriano's eventual opponent, Josh Shapiro, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars boosting him in the Republican primary. That proved to be a wise investment, as Mastriano seemed almost determined to lose after securing the party nomination.

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Mastriano hadn't run a single campaign ad through the end of September. He made almost no efforts to fundraise. By the end of the third reporting cycle, he had less than $400,000 on hand. As a matter of policy, he did not engage with what he deemed "mainstream media," including local Pennsylvania outlets that could have boosted his profile among independents.

That sounds courageous, but it is not. The press is liberal, and you have to play ball. Kari Lake has done that successfully. Mastriano did not.

His unofficial policy was to speak only to the diehards. Most of his "outreach" came on Facebook, where he posted memes, articles, and selfies for his followers. Whatever that was, it didn't amount to a gubernatorial campaign.

Mastriano believed and said a lot of the right things. He was right on abortion. He was strong on inflation, crime, and education, the defining issues of the cycle. But under the guise of fighting "media bias," he sat on the sidelines while his opponent and the press framed him and his candidacy. That was a cop-out. "Mainstream media" exist whether Doug Mastriano wants them to or not. People watch local news, even if he thinks the outlets they watch are liberal. If he doesn't speak to them, they will speak for him. And they did.

NBC Philadelphia reached out to Mastriano's campaign for comment about his position on abortion. He had an opportunity to make the case for life to voters in the commonwealth. Instead of highlighting his opponent's commitment to abortion to moment of birth, he refused to respond, and allowed the station to characterize his position without challenge.

Mastriano says he is pro-life. In a race where your opponent effectively believes in abortion on demand, the most pro-life thing to do is not to denounce "media bias," but to win. You're not going to win in a swing state like Pennsylvania speaking only to your Facebook followers in livestreams and two-minute hits on Newsmax. Republicans may wish they could. I may wish they could. But they can't.

If we actually care about unborn life, and making sure children are not taught to hate themselves and their ancestors in schools, and religious Americans are protected from state-sanctioned persecution, then we have to actually win elections. And to win elections, we have to nominate good candidates. On that score, neither Oz nor Mastriano qualified. The results prove it.

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