The former president has privately conveyed concerns about having the Pennsylvania Republican on the top of the ticket alongside him this cycle.
MAGA firebrand Doug Mastriano is inducing panic among GOP officials as he inches closer toward a 2024 bid for the Senate after a disastrous showing in his Pennsylvania governor run in 2022.
Among the concerned is none other than Donald Trump.
The former president has privately told Republicans he fears that Mastriano, a far-right state lawmaker in a critical battleground, would hurt him in a general election if they were on the top of the ticket together next year, according to three people familiar with the conversations.
Mastriano, who attempted to overturn the 2020 election and sought to outlaw abortion with no exceptions, lost Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial contest last November by 15 percentage points. His tease of a comeback bid has sparked alarm within GOP circles that he would cost the party any conceivable chance they had of unseating Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) in 2024.
“Trump’s not dumb,” said a top GOP donor who was granted anonymity to speak frankly about private deliberations. “He knows Mastriano will hurt him in Pennsylvania.”
Trump has also relayed to Republicans, including at least one senator, that he would be reluctant to endorse Mastriano for Senate because of his concerns that he would pull him down, the three people said. That’s not the only reason he may stay out: A person close to Trump said it is unlikely he will be as involved in 2024 down-ballot races across the country since he is busy running himself. Trump is currently more interested in seeing who endorses him.
Snubbing Mastriano would be a 180 from last year, when Trump defied Republican leaders in the state and D.C., and officially backed him days before the primary.
“He regrets endorsing him in ,” said an adviser to Trump who was granted anonymity to speak openly. “He says, ‘Doug blew it.’”
The adviser, along with another person close to Trump, said the former president took issue with Mastriano embracing a platform that included no abortion exceptions, including for the life of the mother. The person close to Trump insisted that was not how Mastriano presented his position privately to the former president. Though Mastriano did state his no-exceptions position in a primary debate prior to Trump’s endorsement, the adviser said that Trump never would have endorsed had he been more aware of Mastriano’s support for that policy.
Trump, after appointing the Supreme Court justices needed to overturn Roe v. Wade, has nevertheless taken to social media to blame GOP losses in the midterms on Republicans who “firmly insisted on No Exceptions, even in the case of Rape, Incest, or Life of the Mother.”
The Trump campaign declined to provide a comment for this story.
In the conversation with the senator, which took place in recent weeks, Trump expressed reservations about Mastriano being a “drag” on him as the nominee, according to a GOP strategist familiar with the discussion. Those reservations extend to others associated with the Pennsylvania Republican. Trump, according to an adviser, is “done” with Jenna Ellis, a former Trump attorney who pushed for Mastriano during the primary and served as a lawyer for the then-president during his post-election efforts to contest the 2020 vote.
Mastriano did not respond to a request for comment. Ellis said that since declining to work for Trump’s 2024 campaign, she has been “called a porn star, sexually harassed, and stalked in the media by the unnamed male ‘Trump Advisors.’”
“If President Trump was so ‘done’ with me, why did he literally call me two days ago?” she added. “These ‘advisors’ are clearly misrepresenting their positions and proximity in an effort to intimidate women who stand on principle by attacking them on social media and anonymously in the press.”
Trump’s machinations in the Keystone State could have a major effect on the GOP’s efforts to take back the Senate. Republicans need to flip just two seats to win the chamber and Casey is among their top targets. After a disappointing midterm election, the Senate Republican campaign arm sees Mastriano as unelectable. The group is recruiting ex-hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick, who narrowly lost the Pennsylvania Senate primary to celebrity physician Mehmet Oz in 2022, to challenge Casey.
“Republicans are scared to death of Mastriano being on the ballot again,” said Josh Novotney, a GOP consultant in Pennsylvania. “He tanked the entire ticket last year.”
It is far from certain that Trump’s reservations about Mastriano mean he would endorse McCormick in the primary. Last year Trump backed Oz while blasting McCormick as a “liberal Wall Street Republican.” The former president also has his own intraparty politics to consider. If the primary is still competitive during Pennsylvania’s primary in late April — or state lawmakers move up the voting date like they are considering — Trump may determine he needs to avoid disappointing Mastriano’s base.
Trump has had no problem abandoning allies in the past after they’ve lost elections. Last year, he decided not to endorse former Rep. Lou Barletta in his bid for governor of Pennsylvania after he had backed him in an unsuccessful Senate run four years prior. Trump privately called Barletta a “loser,” according to multiple sources.
Were Trump merely to stay out of any potential primary between Mastriano and McCormick, many Republican officials in the state and nationally would be relieved.
“There’s a lot of concern amongst party leaders about the effect that Mastriano would have on the down-ballot,” said Rob Gleason, former chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party. “I don’t think [Trump] is going to endorse anybody. He has to worry about himself.”
Trump was ambivalent about Mastriano before he endorsed him. Mastriano had been a loyal soldier in the MAGA movement, using his position as a state senator to become the face of the effort to overturn the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. But Trump wanted more action from Mastriano on his promises surrounding an audit of the election results, and some of Trump’s advisers were concerned that Mastriano was unelectable.
Several Republicans in Trump’s orbit believe the former president ultimately endorsed Mastriano because he wanted to burnish his win-loss record in Republican primaries. Trump’s move enraged GOP officials in Pennsylvania who were attempting to mount a last-ditch effort to stop Mastriano in hopes of avoiding an onslaught in November.
This time around, Trump’s circle is more dubious about Mastriano’s chances of winning a general election, believing he simply can not beat Casey. A recent poll by Franklin & Marshall College found that Casey leads Mastriano by 16 percentage points in a hypothetical matchup, while he is ahead of McCormick by 7 points.
Mastriano has also come under blame by some people around Trump for contributing to Oz’s loss, a sore spot for the former president, who himself has blamed his wife and others for counseling him to back Oz.
But there are still a handful of Mastriano fans in Trump world. Christina Bobb, who has worked as a lawyer for Trump, was a featured speaker at a rally Mastriano held in south-central Pennsylvania last month. She praised Mastriano as a MAGA warrior who bravely fought to rectify the 2020 election.
She told the crowd that she had talked to Trump before the event. “He goes, ‘Tell him I love them, tell him I love them all,” she said.