Trump-loving Pennsylvania State Sen. Doug Mastriano is a rising star in Republican politics -- and it's all because he's gone all-in on former President Donald Trump's lies about the 2020 election.
Politico reports that Mastriano was a "political nobody" until last year when he hopped aboard Trump's "stop the steal" bandwagon and began promoting the president's conspiratorial falsehoods about the 2020 election.
"Having hitched himself to Donald Trump's election fraud lie, his fortunes have changed dramatically," reports Politico. "Rudy Giuliani recently headlined a fundraiser for him. Over the weekend, Mastriano finished first in a gubernatorial straw poll at the conservative Pennsylvania Leadership Conference."
Carl Fogliani, a GOP strategist based in Pittsburgh, tells Politico that Mastriano is being rewarded by Republican base voters who all want to hear that Trump actually won the presidency despite losing it by more than 7 million in the national popular vote and by 74 votes in the electoral college.
"The hard-core base -- Mastriano's playing to it," he said. "He has a following among core activists, and he's trying to grow it out."
David Becker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research, lamented to Politico that Mastriano's rise is a sad reflection of the way lies and extremism are heavily rewarded by Republican voters.
"A year ago, would anyone have known Mastriano's name out of a 50-mile radius of his district?" asked Becker, who lumped Mastriano in with "a large segment of grifters that are looking to cash in" on election conspiracy theories.
'I've got lots of ammo': NC conservatives express 'real fear' elections are being stolen -- and they want action
Jay DeLancy, a retired Air Force Colonel with a clean-shaven head and the energetic manner of a nondenominational preacher, stood at the front of a Baptist church in the Appalachian foothills on a recent Saturday afternoon at the conclusion of his presentation on voting by non-citizens.
Complete with a slideshow and self-deprecating commentary, DeLancy's presentation detailed a saga running back almost a decade when his group Voter Integrity Project attempted to challenge dozens of registered voters on the basis of jury excuse forms that indicated they were not citizens of North Carolina. The state Board of Elections had thrown out each of the challenges, and successive efforts to obtain legislation remedies failed. DeLancy said he was also frustrated that after 11 of the case were referred to Immigration & Customs Enforcement for investigation, nothing seemed to come of it.
Voter Integrity Project responds to the NAACP v. NCSBEE ruling. www.youtube.com
"But these people are running around saying, 'There is no vote fraud because, well, there's no prosecutions," DeLancy said. "We'll, have you gotten the gist of how hard it is to get a stinkin' prosecution? Have you gotten that yet? So, it's really hard to get one."
A woman with short, silvery hair raised her hand and stood to speak.
"Do you really think that we — we can't go in and break dishes, and we're supposed to sit back like this — I don't think we've got that type of time," she said during the question-and-answer period at the June 12 "Voter Integrity Bootcamp." Held in the spacious sanctuary at Calvary Baptist Church, about 50 people — almost exclusively white, with the exception of one African-American man — strategized methods for deterring voter fraud.
DeLancy attempted to interject, but the woman continued.
"I really don't," she continued. "My real fear is — and this is coming from someone who's usually pretty calm, pretty cool and collected — I want to go out with a baseball bat and break some dishes and make some things happen. I'm tired of this…. I have a real fear that there's going to be civil unrest amongst what are usually very peaceful people. You can only be pushed to the precipice before — I'm done. I mean, when are we going to go golf?"
Expressing frustration, the woman continued, "I'm still not getting any direct action on what I can do."
"Trust me, that's next," DeLancy told her. "But it's a question of the ballot box versus the ammo box. And I'm trying to avoid…."
"I've got lots of ammo," the woman interrupted.
"Honey, you don't have enough," DeLancy said. "You don't have enough. There's not enough ammo on this planet for what you're talking about. Just saying. So, calm down."
Asked about whether his message could potentially fuel violence by undermining confidence in elections, DeLancy told Raw Story: "I'm not going to lie them. I think there's a way to thread the needle to get elections back to something we can be confident in.
"We need a lot more transparency in this," he continued. "If we don't get it, we will lose our republic. We will become another Venezuela if we don't get this solved."
DeLancy, who co-founded Voter Integrity Project in 2011, held up the Arizona election audit as a model for the kind of process he would like to see to restore trust in elections. The Arizona audit has been widely panned for being run by a little-known company with no experience in election audits, concerns about ballots being compromised, and limiting access to the press.
"We'd like to see an audit — an Arizona-style audit," DeLancy told Raw Story. "In the worst-case scenario, people laugh their heads off, and say, 'You wasted all this money for nothing.'
"In my world, that's how we would do it," he added. "We would have citizen oversight of the process. We've outsourced the job to full-time and part-time government employees. The government employees are not neutral."
A majority of Republicans — 53 percent — believe, falsely, that Donald Trump is the "true president," according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted in May. In comparison, only 3 percent of Democrats believe the election was stolen from Trump. Put together with unaffiliated voters, the poll found that 25 percent of all Americans buy into the false belief that the election was stolen.
DeLancy's trainings are receiving publicity from the NC State Defense Forces, which describes itself as an "all-volunteer, pro-government, non-partisan civil defense force comprised of currently and formerly serving military, police, first responders and other like-minded legal US citizens." The group, which announced its aim to "assist state citizens learning how to protect elections," says it upholds an oath to "defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic and to protect and serve the citizens of North Carolina according to the NC State Constitution in times of need such as natural disasters or local threats to law and order." Another press release, dated Dec. 15, 2020, that is published on the group's website announces: "Oath Keepers in North Carolina joining North Carolina State Defense Forces." It is not clear what, if any, connection the NC State Defense Forces might have with the dozen-plus defendants facing federal charges related to the Jan. 6 storming of the US Capitol. Calls to a number listed on the group's website for this story were not returned.
Two recurring themes in DeLancy's presentations are the notion that voter fraud is widespread and that institutions are unresponsive to efforts to ferret it out. Belying DeLancy's complaint about the difficulty of getting prosecutions when it comes to non-citizens voting — which had prompted the woman at his training in King to say she was ready "to go out with a baseball bat and break some dishes" — was a fact that went unmentioned in his presentation: Federal prosecutors under both Trump and Biden have announced indictments of dozens of North Carolina residents accused of voting as non-citizens, including 19 in August 2018, another 19 in September 2020 and, most recently, 24 others in March 2021.
Since the launch of the Voter Integrity Project in 2011, DeLancy has cultivated relationships among far-right Republican lawmakers in the NC House, including Rep. George Cleveland. Bob Hall, a voter-rights watchdog who often winds up on the opposite side in legislative fights, confirmed DeLancy's account that the Republican leadership doesn't always go along with him.
"He's more extreme than what the leadership wants," Hall said.
DeLancy framed his presentation on non-citizens voting at the June 12 training as a tale of heroes and villains. He suggested his audience would probably deem Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who vetoed a bill requiring local clerks of courts to share jury excuse forms with election offices, as the villain. But DeLancy offered a counterintuitive alternative, showing a slide with Cooper's faced X-ed out, alongside that of Republican Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger. With Berger leading the Senate, the bill remained bottled up in committee when the Republicans had a veto-proof supermajority, DeLancy pointed out.
"Cleveland understood what [the legislation] was doing," DeLancy recounted on June 12. "My fingerprints were not on that bill. Cleveland put it through. He said, 'Should I name it 'Voter Roll'? I said, 'No, no, no. It's about jury excusals, interagency cooperation, that's all.' And he did it. He framed it that way."
The legislation supported by DeLancy would have also made the jury excuse forms into public records.
"That's a huge concern," Hall said. "In addition to the fact that the data is not reliable, you're giving an overworked staff at the county board a bunch of bad data. There's no penalty for someone to write, 'I'm not a citizen of the state,' to get out of jury duty. It's not a felony or a misdemeanor. People can write all kinds of things."
The harm of releasing jury excuse forms to citizen volunteers is illustrated by what happened when DeLancy accessed the forms in Wake County in 2012, Hall said.
"He got access to the jury excuse forms, and had his data guy line it up with registered voters," Hall recounted. "It turned out that the data was all wrong. It was complete harassment. There was a guy they videoed; Jay and his allies were coming up to this guy in his driveway, and they say, 'We want to talk to you.' It turns out he's a legitimate citizen. They wanted to claim he wasn't part of it. The thing was by the time they got that information — people who were not citizens at the time they were called to serve on juries had become citizens. Six months later, by the time he was doing his campaign, the data was old."
While DeLancy found Berger, the Republican leader of the state Senate in North Carolina, to be unreceptive, his view of other Republican officials across the country has likewise dimmed.
DeLancy told Raw Story that at one time he believed voter fraud primarily benefited Democrats. That changed during the 2020 election.
"After 2020, I think it mainly benefits an ideology," he said. "You might call it 'Never Trump.' You might call it globalism. In Arizona, the Republican senators were trying to get the ballots, and the Republican governor is trying to stop them."
DeLancy told Raw Story without hesitation that he believes the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. Multiple judges have thrown out lawsuits challenging the 2020 election based on lack of evidence.
"I just find it mighty interesting that Trump was winning those key battleground states that had those large dumps of votes after midnight," DeLancy said. "You get a massive number of ballots that suddenly show up that swing the election conveniently against Trump."
The phenomenon DeLancy described was widely predicted by election observers who had noted that early returns would tend to favor Trump, while later surges of write-in and absentee votes — a method more widely embraced by Democratic voters — would benefit Biden. DeLancy indicated he's well aware of the theory, accurately identifying it as the "Red Mirage."
DeLancy said he's teaching citizen volunteers at the Voter Integrity Bootcamps to canvass voter rolls to try to identify illegal voters. By having volunteers knock on doors at addresses for voters listed as "inactive," he hopes to gather signed statements from witnesses attesting that these voters no longer live at the addressed where they are registered. He said his group will exercise "all options, to include challenging those voters if they show up at the polls."
The two trainings held so far this year by Voter Integrity Project have taken place in Republican-dominated areas, first in Waynesville on April 24 and then in King last weekend. But three trainings scheduled for next month are aimed at Democratic strongholds in Fayetteville, Raleigh and Durham.
During the recent training in King, DeLancy acknowledged the presence of a reporter and made sure everyone in the audience was also aware it. But he did not temper his remarks.
During a digression on the topic of undocumented people traveling to North Carolina to obtain driver's licenses before the DMV stopped the practice in 2006, DeLancy complained about a TV news story that was too positive for his liking.
"There was just a friendly story about these people who came flooding in from Atlanta in a van," he said. "Couldn't speak a lick of English, but they were getting that license before they had to provide their citizenship. And only in TV-land in Charlotte is this something to celebrate."
Then his voice rose in a growl that revealed his frustration about the way he imagined he and his allies would be perceived because they weren't comfortable with undocumented people obtaining licenses to legally operate motor vehicles.
"But people like you who are obviously white supremacists, people like you are appalled by it," DeLancy said. "And it's like, come on. Come on, guys. Can't we defend our country? Aren't we allowed to have borders?"
The more people see of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the less they seem to like. Over the last six years, as the California Republican has gone from being largely unknown among U.S. voters to a national figure, his polling numbers have trended downward. According to Quinnipiac's May 26 poll, McCarthy now has the lowest favorability rate of top congressional leaders at just 12% — an astounding three points lower than Sen. Mitch McConnell.
That includes groups conservative leaders need to appeal to: A Morning Consult/Politico May 21-24 poll found McCarthy with high unfavorability ratings among several groups critical to the GOP coalition. Christians had a 28% favorable and 41% unfavorable view of him, retirees had a 26% favorable and 49% unfavorable view of him, and families with a military member as head of household had a 29% favorable and 39% unfavorable view of him.
He's not endearing himself to Donald Trump fans, either. The same Morning Consult/Politico's poll found that among 2020 Trump voters who had an opinion of McCarthy, 37% had an unfavorable view of him. Compare that to an October 2018 poll by The Economist/YouGov, which found among Trump 2016 voters who had an opinion of McCarthy, only 22% were unfavorable.
McCarthy wasn't always a household name. Back in 2015, when he ran unsuccessfully for House Speaker before dropping out of that contest, Public Policy Polling reported, "Kevin McCarthy has made a horrible first impression on the American public to the extent he has made an impression at all." At that point, according to the poll, 50% of voters said they had no opinion about him. Since then, McCarthy's name recognition has been on the rise, as documented by Morning Consult/Politico: In January 2019, only 41% of those polled said they had never heard of McCarthy, a number that dropped to 22% in January 2020 and fell yet again to 16% in January of 2021. In the May poll, the latest, the number who drew a blank on McCarthy was just 15%.
According to right-leaning pollster Richard Baris of Big Data Poll, most individuals who know who McCarthy is now rate him as unfavorable. On Steve Bannon's "WarRoom: Pandemic" podcast, Baris said late last week that McCarthy's unfavorable ratings are coming from independents and Republicans, with four in ten Republicans now having a "very unfavorable" view of McCarthy.
There doesn't seem to be one dominating reason why the House Minority Leader isn't more widely embraced by his own party's voters. But a closer look at recent events and numbers reveals some interesting possibilities.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson revealed on May 3 that McCarthy has been living with political consultant Frank Luntz, whom Carlson derides as "a smooth salesman" pushing political messaging onto Republican politicians that reflects values more liberal than conservative. By drawing attention to McCarthy's close ties to Luntz, Carlson fans might have the impression that McCarthy isn't to be trusted as a conservative champion either.
And Carlson's influence matters. In March, Luntz himself did some polling for a nonprofit client, the de Beaumont Foundation, which found that most Trump 2020 voters — 52% — were most aligned with Trump rather than the GOP. And Luntz also found that Republican voters who were most aligned with former President Donald Trump trusted Tucker Carlson the most out of a list of conservative media figures on information related to the evolving coronavirus pandemic — more even than his fellow Fox News primetime host, the Trump-friendly Sean Hannity. It's a fair observation that Carlson's perspective carries significant weight with the MAGA crowd, and Carlson exposing McCarthy as a close friend of Luntz's likely didn't do the representative any favors with them.
Two ethics complaints have also been filed against McCarthy, following a month of Washington Post Fact Checker articles documenting his living arrangements with Luntz. Salon has also published multiple exclusive stories reporting on Luntz's ethical lapses with media outlets VICE News/HBO and the LA Times. Salon went onto report that Luntz's ex-employees have called his research a scam, that Luntz's current employees were mostly Democrats, and covered other instances of Luntz appearing in the media without disclosing that he was working for a candidate or party. McCarthy's relationship to Luntz ensured the Congressional leader would remain in the spotlight alongside the embattled consultant, which can't have helped his favorability ratings.
In the wake of the Luntz revelation, McCarthy appears to have flipped his position on key issues, perhaps in a bid to juice his appeal with fans of both Trump and Carlson.
On May 4, the morning after Carlson's exposé, McCarthy went on cable news to say he had lost confidence in Liz Cheney — one of the most prominent Republicans pushing back against the Big Lie — as GOP Conference Chair, after backing her on the same vote in February. And after tapping a trusted lieutenant, Rep. John Katko, to negotiate a bipartisan January 6 Commission, McCarthy came out against the bipartisan agreement, and even whipped the House GOP conference to vote against the commission on a May 19 vote. Embarrassingly for McCarthy, a total of 35 Republican House members defied him and voted for the commission. Carlson has scoffed at the need for a January 6 investigation, and is no fan of Cheney nor her response to the Capitol insurrection.
McCarthy's favorability freefall might also have cleared room for the maybe-idle speculation that Trump could run for a Florida congressional seat and potentially become Speaker of the House if the GOP regains its lower chamber majority in 2022.
On Tuesday morning, McCarthy seemed more concerned with Joe Biden's domestic politics than an impending MAGA explosion of the Republican Party. "Well I remember past presidents who believe politics end at the water's edge, but apparently, President Biden doesn't believe that," McCarthy said. "He complained about Republicans but he complimented Putin. I think he kind of has this backwards."
McCarthy's office didn't return a Salon request for comment on this story.
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