Trump, Mastriano Well Ahead of Respective Potential Rivals in Pennsylvania

In the first public poll on Pennsylvania’s 2024 Republican Senate primary, State Senator Doug Mastriano (R-Gettysburg) has an 18-point lead against Dave McCormick.

The same survey shows former President Donald Trump besting Florida Governor Ron DeSantis by the same margin in the state’s GOP presidential contest. While only Trump has officially declared his candidacy, a robust movement for a DeSantis bid has long been afoot, while both Mastriano and McCormick have strongly suggested they are considering a Senate run against Democratic incumbent Bob Casey. 

Public Policy Polling (PPP), a Democrat-aligned firm, commissioned the poll, which assumes a three-person matchup in the Senate nomination battle and a five-person White House primary. Results show Mastriano with 39 percent of the vote, McCormick with 21 percent, and Kathy Barnette with 11 percent. McCormick and Barnette both ran for their party’s Senate nomination last year but lost to celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz, who lost to then-Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman (D). 

PPP’s findings on the presidential race put Trump at the lead with 49 percent and DeSantis with 31 recent, while former South Carolina governor and former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley ties with former Vice President Mike Pence at 5 percent. If recent data is to be believed, the ex-president has dramatically improved his position; a survey conducted by Harrisburg-based Susquehanna Polling and Research in late February indicated DeSantis received 37 percent of GOP voters’ backing while Trump got only 32 percent. 

All 616 likely voters responding to the PPP poll told the firm they usually vote in GOP primary elections, and 94 percent of them said they hold a negative view of President Joe Biden’s job performance. Only 15 percent said the same thing about Trump’s tenure in Washington, with 75 percent saying they like the former president’s public record and 10 percent saying they are unsure. 

Mastriano gets a more equivocal reaction from Republican voters, only 47 percent of whom said they like what they know of the lawmaker. Twenty-eight percent registered an unfavorable view, and 25 percent said they weren’t sure. 

While Mastriano will need to overcome the negative views of some within his party if he runs, McCormick’s challenge will be forming an impression of any kind. While 22 percent of Republican voters registered a positive opinion of the former hedge-fund executive and 13 percent viewed him negatively, 65 percent admitted they were unsure. 

Featuring McCormick’s emerging appeal to voters is a new book Superpower in Peril: A Battle Plan to Renew America. The 320-page work discusses at length the economic and security challenges the U.S. now faces and suggests ideas for confronting communist China. (In 2022, U.S.-China relations were broadly considered a liability for the candidate who had embraced economic engagement with the adversarial nation in his capacity as a businessman and as undersecretary of the Treasury under George W. Bush.) 

Mastriano, too, has spent recent months rehabilitating facets of his public image that have caused him difficulty. He jumped into the race for governor with a reputation for hyper-partisanship but has emerged as a leading advocate for remedial action for Pennsylvanians who are suffering in the wake of Norfolk Southern train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. 

A bill he sponsored to financially aid affected residents in Beaver and Lawrence counties unanimously passed the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, which he chairs last week. His panel is seeking further accountability from Governor Shapiro, members whose administration they have already questioned, and Norfolk Southern Chief Executive Officer Alan Shaw, who will testify before the committee next week. 

Mastriano won another bipartisan victory late last week when the Senate unanimously approved his legislation to ensure disabled veterans can receive military benefits without affecting their access to state economic relief programs. 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Doug Mastriano” by Doug Mastriano. Photo “Donald Trump” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Pennsylvania Capitol” by Schindlerdigital. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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