On a chilly Saturday morning in mid-October, state and national GOP leaders headed to a restaurant on the patio of a hotel in a critical Philadelphia suburb to energize loyalists heading into next month’s election, in which the pair are awkwardly straddling the top of the Pennsylvania ticket. .

After naming the Democrats’ shortcomings, the party representatives introduced the keynote speaker: Dr. Mehmet OzDemocratic Senate candidate John Fetterman in a race that could decide control of the House and the fate of President Joe Biden’s agenda.

“I’m very happy to retire the name of the doctor, and let’s make sure he becomes a senator,” Rona McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, told the crowd.

It was nowhere to be seen, or even mentioned Doug Mastrianothe Republican candidate for governor against the Democrats Josh Shapiro.

Oz, a heart surgeon turned TV celebrity, and Mastriano have the national political wind at their backs. But they’re running very different campaigns and targeting two very different types of voters — in ways that may hinder rather than help the other.

That dynamic complicates the Republican path to victory in Pennsylvania on Nov. 8, strategists say, and forces the GOP into an uneasy balancing act in which the two men rarely appear together.

Supporters gather to listen to Mehmet Oz (L), Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, during a campaign event in Malvern, Pennsylvania, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022.

Party strategists said it made sense to avoid Mastriano because he trails Shapiro in the polls run a far-right campaign it drives away the moderate voters Oz will need to defeat Fetterman, the lieutenant governor.

Ryan Costello, a former Republican congressman who once represented that part of Chester County, said that if he had run for office and been invited to the party, “I would ask if Mastriano would come, and if they said yes, I would something else. He’s horrible.”

Mastriano will lose Republican votes in Philadelphia’s moderate and populous suburbs, just like Donald Trump did in his 2020 presidential run To Biden, Costello said.

Representatives of the Republican Party did not respond to questions about Mastryan.

Fetterman does not lose the dynamic, which keeps linking Oz to Mastriano. In them Debate on Tuesday nightFetterman interrupted Oz’s answer to the abortion question to claim that “you’re hanging out with Doug Mastriano!”

The next day, Mastriano mentioned the line in a silly speech in Lancaster County and laughed about it: “I like it: Let’s ride together.” But he didn’t mention Oz, only Fetterman.

Like Mastriano, Oz was endorsed by Trump. But unlike Mastriano, Oz has not been warmly received by Trump’s most loyal voters — those who make up Mastriano’s far-right base.

Mastriano has gone hard after Trump’s bloc, weaving transgender conspiracy theories into the GOP’s more popular themes of crime and inflation while refusing to answer questions from major independent news organizations. But those reports, along with his outright opposition to abortion, his spread of Trump’s election lies and his presence outside the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 uprising, have alienated moderates and Republican donors.

“It’s like he’s still running the primary,” said Republican campaign strategist Bob Salero. “He will not go anywhere. He is not talking to any groups of people who are not already going to vote for him in the general election. He does not invite the media to his events. He doesn’t get the message outside of his base.”

Meanwhile, Oz highlights the GOP’s national talking points on crime and inflation in an effort to to convince voters and even Democrats. He campaigned with key GOP figures, including Nikki Haley, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, and retired two-term Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, whom Oz hopes will succeed him.

Mastriano has campaigned with far-right figures, including propagandists, QAnon conspiracy theorists, election denialists, self-described prophets, and Christian nationalists such as Michael Flynnwho once headed the US intelligence service and is now at the center of a far-right Christian nationalist movement.

Toomey did not support Mastriano.

Mastriano was scheduled to speak at Flynn’s two-day ReAwaken America conference last weekend in Mannheim, but missed it without explanation. Most recently, he campaigned with propagandist Jack Posobey, perhaps best known for spreading conspiracy theories. pizzagate, ,” suggesting that Hillary Clinton is running a pedophile ring out of a pizzeria.

“That’s who he surrounds himself with: white supremacists, extremists,” Shapiro, who served two terms as attorney general, said in an interview. companies. So this should not surprise us. He’s a guy who wore Confederate uniforms on the grounds of the military college. That’s who he is.”

Fetterman and Shapiro have no such problems appearing together. They show up at the same big party events and union rallies, like the one 30 miles outside of Philadelphia, where they hugged each other and mugged the rally-goers on camera.

Mastriano could still help Oz, strategists say, by getting the party’s base to come out and vote for Oz. But Oz will have to attract moderate Republicans in places like Chester County, even if they refuse to support Mastriano, Costello said.

“And if he does that, Oz wins here,” Costello said.

Mike Mikus, a Democratic political strategist, said that balance could work, but Mastriano lacks the campaign cash to reach base Republicans who might not vote in midterm elections.

Motivating these voters is critical if the Republican Party is to win, Mikus said.

“Voter turnout will be high,” Mikus said. “But there will be people who stay home because Oz can’t motivate them, and Mastriano will be able to motivate them, but he doesn’t have the money or the infrastructure to drive them out.”


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