Republicans warn Trump-backed Mastriano of false election claims and visual impact on Senate race
Republicans, reacting to Trump-backed Doug Mastriano’s victory in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, were concerned about the election lies he’s been spreading about 2020 – and warned voters don’t want to reignite the dispute .
“I don’t think 2020 is what people are going to want to think about,” Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN when asked about Mastriano’s claims.
The fear among Senate Republicans is that if Mastriano implodes in the general election, it could hurt their Senate nominee, according to multiple GOP sources. The GOP Senate primary has yet to be called. The unease over Mastriano underscores the greater division within the Republican Party over former President Donald Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, especially among those who say such claims will hurt the party’s electoral chances in November. .
Senate GOP Whip John Thune also expressed concern about Mastriano’s past comments, telling CNN, “Some of the statements that I think this individual has made are not ideal.” And he added, “But I think people, hopefully, when it comes to the fall election, are very discerning and will be able to tell the gubernatorial candidate from the Senate candidate.”
Other GOP senators had a similar message.
“If you’re going through the state, you have to know the state and I think in some of these states particularly on the battlefield, that might not be a winning message,” said Sen. Thom Tillis of Caroline du Nord over Mastriano’s stolen electoral claims.
Tillis said Republicans should focus on economic issues and border issues — not 2020.
“Why focus on things where you can evenly split or have a losing fight?” said Tillis.
Others were clear that Mastriano was not their preferred candidate.
“It wouldn’t have been my choice,” said Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah.
GOP Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, whose retirement creates the vacant Senate seat, told CNN he didn’t know Mastriano and didn’t vote for him — and instead backed candidate Bill McSwain. But he said he would “suspend judgment” on Mastriano until he gets to know him and talks to him.
Asked about Mastriano’s false 2020 election claims, Toomey said, “I’m aware he said things that I would disagree with.”
Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan, who chairs the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, said tying the GOP Senate nominee to Mastriano “will happen naturally” and that Democrats will try to “show that Republicans have put forward candidates for extreme right for both the Governor and the Senate and it strengthens our ability to win.
Toomey played down the impact Mastriano would have on other GOP candidates in the state.
“I think these are separate races, really separate races. So I am very pleased with our prospects of taking the Senate seat,” he said.
Others said voters needed to assess the truth about 2020.
“I just encourage all voters to look objectively, not just at what you’ve read on the internet, but at what appears to be the reality, make your own decision,” said GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana.