Bad vibes: Dr. Oz is underperforming Doug Mastriano in a new Pennsylvania poll

Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

How despairing you feel about these results depends on how charitable you want to be to Republican voters.

But the fact that insurrectionist Doug Mastriano is closer to becoming governor than milquetoast centrist Mehmet Oz is to becoming senator should not fill you with warm and fuzzy feelings about the state of the GOP.

The charitable explanation for Oz trailing John Fetterman by nine points while Mastriano trails Josh Shapiro by just four is that Fetterman is an unusually strong candidate and Oz an unusually weak one. The 46/37 margin between them doesn’t mean Republican voters prefer election truthers like Mastriano to normie candidates, it simply means that Oz is a good match-up for Fetterman on the merits. Fetterman exudes blue-collar Pennsylvania authenticity whereas Oz is a celebrity carpet-bagger who seems to have arrived in the state five minutes ago. Oz also just survived a brutal three-way primary with Dave McCormick and Kathy Barnette. Righties who voted for the latter two might not be in a mood to forgive and forget yet.

There are few Democrats nationally who are going to lead among white voters in a swing state this fall, I’d imagine, but John Fetterman’s burly populism is getting it done in Pennsylvania at Oz’s expense for the moment:

Meanwhile, Oz is the least-liked political figure of any polled by Suffolk. Between the right’s suspicions of him as an opportunistic RINO, the left’s disdain for him as a Trump ass-kisser, and undecideds’ knowledge of him as that quack from TV, he’s in a deep hole on favorability. Especially relative to Fetterman.

Only six percent of Pennsylvania voters say they’ve never heard of Oz. Nearly twice as many say they’ve never heard of Mastriano. Maybe, as more Pennsylvanians on both sides find out about Mastriano’s “stop the steal” pedigree, his favorables will sink to Oz levels too. In other words, the fact that Mastriano trails Josh Shapiro by a mere 44/40 may have less to do with Republicans being pro-insurrectionist than simple ignorance of who Mastriano — and Shapiro — are across the electorate. That’ll change over time as the campaign heats up.

The less charitable explanation for Oz underperforming Mastriano is that Republican voters are pro-insurrectionist. Or at least, many are. “2020 election deniers are winning everywhere,” Politico marveled about last night’s results, zeroing in on Nevada in particular. This character is highly likely to be in charge of certifying that state’s elections in 2024:

[Jim] Marchant has said that he ran for secretary of state at the urging of Juan O Savin, a prominent QAnon influencer. After losing a congressional bid by more than 16,000 votes in 2020, Marchant claimed he was the victim of fraud, but failed to produce any evidence of it in a lawsuit seeking to overturning the result.

He has told voters that their vote hasn’t mattered for decades because Nevada’s leaders have “been installed by the deep state cabal”.

After Joe Biden won the state in 2020, Marchant supported sending an alternate pro-Trump slate of electors to Congress. He said in January he would be prepared to do the same in 2024.

He has also pushed counties to decertify Dominion voting machines and to only tally votes using a hand count of paper ballots, a method that experts warn is unreliable.

Marchant wasn’t the only election truther who won there last night: Adam Laxalt, Trump’s candidate, prevailed in the Republican Senate. The midterm political environment is so gruesome for Democrats that I suspect Nevada will flip entirely red this fall, with Marchant surfing the GOP wave to victory. Not all Republican voters will cast their ballots for him because he’s pro-insurrection — some will be indifferent to that fact, believing that an authoritarian Republican is better than any stripe of Democrat, while others will remain blissfully ignorant to Marchant’s coup support due to righty media suppressing that fact. Whatever the reason, he’s not going to lose many Republican votes for being an egregious crank. And maybe not many independent votes either:

Meanwhile, Mastriano is a mere four points back of becoming governor of Pennsylvania, an office that would give him the power to appoint his own state’s next secretary of state. A few days ago, he was heard babbling about the January 6 riot being America’s Reichstag fire. The reason Shapiro’s campaign spent money to run a pro-Mastriano ad in the Republican gubernatorial was because, supposedly, Mastriano is unelectable and would be easy pickings for Shapiro this fall. But I repeat what I said last night in condemning that tactic: There’s no such thing as an “unelectable Republican” this year in any state where Democrats enjoy less than a 15-point advantage. The left needs to get that through their heads immediately before they cut any more ads for fringe MAGA candidates.

Actually, I should amend what I just said. There’s no such thing as an “unelectable Republican” in swing states this year … except, maybe, Mehmet Oz. A generic Republican running against a generic Democrat for Senate in Pennsylvania would almost certainly win. But Fetterman is the opposite of generic, and Oz is generic in all the wrong ways from the standpoint of grassroots Republicans. It may even be that Fetterman’s getting a bit of a sympathy vote (for now) due to his health crisis. Whatever the explanation, 46/37 is shockingly weak polling in a year when a red tsunami is about to crash down. Although, given how civically diseased our country has become, it’d be fitting if the coup-enabler Mastriano but not the squishy Oz ended up prevailing in November.