In recent days, Democratic candidates in key battleground states have moved ahead of Republicans in polls for critical midterm elections.
And though many analysts have rightfully pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade as a key reason, a lot of blame for the GOP’s apparently lowering fortunes can be placed in the absolute nuttiness of their candidates—something Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delicately referred to a few days ago as “candidate quality.”
Let’s check in on a couple of those candidates now, shall we?
First, in Pennsylvania, Republicans nominated a Jan. 6 insurrection supporter, the state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who is now in a fairly close race with Attorney General Josh Shapiro to become Pennsylvania’s next governor. Mastriano has already said that he wouldn’t have certified Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in Pennsylvania. (As a reminder, Pennsylvania was the state that propelled Biden to a clear win.)
In recent days, though, multiple reports have focused on another fun fact about Mastriano: His apparent fondness for the confederacy!
Reuters reported last week on previously unreported photos from 2014 of Mastriano playing dress up as a Confederate soldier in a faculty photo at the Army War College:
Faculty at the time had been given the option of dressing as a historical figure, people familiar with the photo said. At least 15 of the 21 faculty in the photo opted to appear in regular attire. Although one man wears a trench coat and sunglasses and another carries an aviator’s helmet, Mastriano is the only one wearing a Confederate uniform.
Kooky! Once Reuters informed the War College about the photo hanging from a wall at the school, they took it down from a public display, saying it had “been removed because it does not meet AWC values.”
That incident was eight years ago, though. How does Mastriano—who, by the way, represents Gettysburg in the state Senate—feel today? One of his senior campaign advisors, Jenna Ellis, responded to the Reuters report: “And? He has a Ph.D in HISTORY. The left wants to erase history. [Doug Mastriano] wants us to learn from it. I invite [Reuters] to go on a Gettysburg tour with Doug. You’ll learn a lot!”
Peachy! Perhaps unsurprisingly, before joining Mastriano’s campaign, Ellis played a critical role in Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
Ok ok, but are there any other indications that Mastriano has any particular attachment to this specific part of history, during which a treasonous group of rebels started a bloody Civil War that nearly destroyed the United States, all in order to preserve the horrific institution of slavery?
It seems like he might!
On Monday, Media Matters reported that in 2020, Mastriano live-streamed himself going to the site of the Gettysburg battle and saluting a group of Confederate flag-waving armed members of the public, who were ostensibly there to prevent an Antifa flag burning. (This was, according to the Washington Post, a social media hoax.) Maybe Mastriano just didn’t see the giant Confederate flag waving from the back of the truck when he went up to the group and told them: “Friends, thanks for being here. I’m Sen. Mastriano. … It’s good to see you guys.” Then again, that same day he posted a similar salutation to a man wearing a half-American flag, half-Confederate flag on his back near Robert E. Lee’s statue at Gettysburg, telling him: “You’re looking good there, man. I can’t think of a better cape.”
Hmm, seems like a prominent Pennsylvanian might be able to think of a “better” cape than one promoting the flag of an army that killed 27,000 Pennsylvanian soldiers during the Civil War.
Not to be outdone, within the same 24 hours, Blake Masters—another Trump endorsed GOP nominee, running for Senate from Arizona—posted a sarcastic comment on Twitter implying that “more female, Black and gay officials” at the Federal Reserve were responsible for the nation’s purported economic struggles.
Specifically, Masters linked to a tweet by the Associated Press that read: “Leadership at the Federal Reserve has become its most diverse ever. There are more female, Black and gay officials contributing to the central bank’s interest-rate decisions than at any time in its 109-year history.” Master’s commentary was: “Finally a compelling explanation for why our economy is doing so well.”
This follows a week in which Masters attempted to scrub his campaign web site of his support for the most radical abortion ban in the country and started running ads saying that his opponent was exaggerating his opposition to abortion. It also comes a few days after a key McConnell-linked Super Pac pulled $8 million in scheduled advertising meant to boost Masters, who has previously stated he wanted someone else to replace McConnell as the GOP’s Senate leader.
Alas, despite the lack of GOP “candidate quality” in these races, the contests remain fairly tight. In the most recent Pennsylvania poll, by Emerson, Mastriano trailed Shapiro by just 3 points. In the most recent Arizona poll by the Republican firm The Trafalgar Group, Masters trailed the incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly by just 4 points.