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MAGA world, meet the real world

York Dispatch editorial board
Former president Donald Trump, on left, listening to Doug Mastriano, PA gubernatorial candidate, on right, speaking at the Save America rally at the Mohegan Sun Casey Arena in Wilkes-Barre, P.A. on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022.

For all of their positive messaging and tireless campaigning, Pennsylvania Democrats may owe their sweep of statewide victories in last week’s elections, at least in part, to an unlikely source: Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.

Because whatever the opposite of “coattails” is, the election-denying candidate evidently had ’em.

In what was supposed to be a red wave year, Democrats captured the governor’s mansion, the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Pat Toomey, and the majority of the state’s congressional seats. They’re even on the verge of taking the majority in the state House.

Who saw that coming?

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Some of Pennsylvania’s Republican elders, that’s who. Recall, they fought unsuccessfully to secure the nomination for businessman Dave McCormick.

“Afraid far-right state Sen. Doug Mastriano would lead the GOP ticket to down-ballot slaughter,” Politico reminds us, “(the state’s Republican establishment) made a last-ditch effort in the primary to stop him from winning the gubernatorial nomination.”

Their failure was followed by Mastriano’s failure, which reflected the widespread failure of the party in this year’s midterm elections.

As of this writing, the balance of power in the House remains unresolved and Democrats have held onto their majority in the Senate. Infighting among Republicans threatens the future leadership aspirations of both Kevin McCarthy in the House and longtime Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Perhaps no less surprising is Democrats appearing to have captured a slim majority to control the state House — a development that could not have been on many political watchers’ Bingo cards.

Elsewhere in the state, leadership is more assured — and welcome.

Josh Shapiro will take the reins from fellow Democrat Tom Wolf, ensuring reproductive rights remain protected. Just as importantly, he denies Mastriano the opportunity to place his thumb on the scales in future elections. The Pennsylvania Republican was one of six election-denying Republican candidates seeking governor’s offices throughout the nation. Five have gone down to defeat and the sixth, Donald Trump acolyte Kari Lake in Arizona, is trailing as final votes are tallied.

The Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump may play well in the far-right echo chamber, but the general electorate clearly wasn’t buying it.

Mastrian is not solely to blame for the GOP’s woes in Pennsylvania. With the notable exception of our neighbor to the north, New York, where a Republican judge reversed overreaching Democratic gerrymandering efforts, Republican candidates underperformed nationwide. But as that Politico story stated, “no one had it quite so bad as Pennsylvania’s Republicans.”

Also coming in for blistering, not to mention uncharacteristic, criticism is once-and-(he hopes)-future President Trump, whose meddling in Pennsylvania, where he pushed not only Mastriano but failed Republican Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, was called out by one of his former advisors.

“If you’re a Republican in Pennsylvania and you look at Donald Trump’s bigfooting of the people in Pennsylvania and the implosion of his candidates in Pennsylvania, you’re pretty upset,” political strategist David Urban, a Pennsylvania native, told the New York Post.

Urban’s voice was just one in a chorus of calls for Trump, who planned to announce his 2024 candidacy this week, to instead step out of the political spotlight.

It’s hard to imagine Trump exiting not with a bang but a whimper. But it would have been just as difficult, less than a week ago, to imagine Republicans scrambling to salvage an unexpectedly poor Election Day showing.

What was foreseeable was that Pennsylvania would play an outsized and consequential role in the midterms. The surprise was that the swing state swung so far to the left.

Credit turnout among younger voters, reaction to the Supreme Court ruling striking down Roe v. Wade and an unintentional nudge from the camps of Mastriano and Trump.