The 'Big Lie' has become a GOP litmus test in these 2 major statewide Pennsylvania races
Pat Toomey

In 2022, the crucial swing state of Pennsylvania will have two major statewide races: a U.S. Senate race and a gubernatorial race. In an article published by The Bulwark on June 17, Never Trump conservative Amanda Carpenter examines the Republican primaries in those races — lamenting that in both of them, promoting the Big Lie has become a litmus test.

"Former President Donald Trump is watching Pennsylvania," Carpenter explains. "Like every other campaign observer, Trump knows that the Keystone State unlocks presidential victories — and that Joe Biden's 50.0-48.8% victory there put him over the 270 votes needed to win the Electoral College. Why does that matter now? With Gov. Tom Wolf term-limited and Sen. Pat Toomey not running for reelection, Pennsylvania has two major statewide offices up for grabs in 2022."

Carpenter continues, "Both the governorship and the Senate seat are powerful perches that could be used to influence the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. Naturally, the Republican candidates vying for these seats are openly seeking Donald Trump's endorsement — and he wants something in return: an Arizona-style audit in their state."

In Pennsylvania, one of the GOP's leading promoters of the Big Lie has been far-right State Sen. Doug Mastriano — a retired U.S. Army colonel who made the absurd claim that the elections he saw in Afghanistan were more "fair" and "safe" than the 2020 presidential election was in the Keystone State. In fact, that election was quite secure in Pennsylvania. And at Philadelphia City Hall, Democratic voters were waiting in line weeks ahead of the election to drop off their absentee ballots and do their part to get Trump out of the White House. Philly, a Democratic stronghold, literally had dancing in the streets when Biden moved ahead of Trump in the vote count.



Carpenter observes, "A committed 'Stop the Steal' leader, Mastriano worked with Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani to hold a widely publicized hearing about alleged voter fraud during the election. His campaign paid for buses to cart protesters to Washington on January 6. He has faced calls for his resignation for participating in the pro-Trump rally that preceded the pro-Trump mob's attack on the U.S. Capitol. Mastriano denies breaching Capitol grounds."

The type of 2020 election "audit" that Trump would like to see in Pennsylvania isn't a bipartisan recount, but a Trumpian farce like the Cyber Ninjas recount being conducted in Maricopa County, Arizona. The 2020 Pennsylvania vote has already been recounted along bipartisan lines, confirming that Biden won the state.

One of the Republicans competing with Mastriano in Pennsylvania's 2022 gubernatorial primary is former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, who ran against Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. in 2018 and lost by 13% when Casey was elected to a third term. Carpenter notes that Barletta "isn't as gung-ho about the election conspiracies as Mastriano" but is "willing to indulge them."

Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania's 2022 GOP senatorial primary, candidate Sean Parnell has said he would support an Arizona-style 2020 election "audit" in his state. And Carpenter observes, "One of Parnell's Senate primary opponents, Jeff Bartos, has been doing some behind-the-scenes work to make the MAGA crowd happy. He funded GOP poll watchers while mail-in ballots were counted in 2020 and thinks denigrating mail-in ballots is a way to draw a contrast with Parnell and appease Trump. He's using Parnell's previous support for mail-in ballots against him, calling it an act of — here's that word again — 'sabotage.'"

Carpenter notes that another candidate in that senatorial primary, Sean Gale, has slammed Toomey as a "Never Trump RINO" and a "traitor" for voting "guilty" in Trump's impeachment trial earlier this year. RINO, of course, is a short for Republican In Name Only, and the supreme irony of Gale using that word to attack Toomey is the fact that when Toomey first challenged the late Sen. Arlen Specter in a GOP primary in 2004, his supporters argued that Toomey was a true Republican and not a RINO like Specter. The Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial board, at the time, described Toomey as being to the right of then-Sen. Rick Santorum. So, in other words, even someone once described as more right-wing than Santorum fits Gale's definition of a RINO.

"What's it all mean?," Carpenter writes. "Considering Pennsylvania's role in electing presidential candidates, maybe a lot. A Republican Pennsylvania governor willing to go along with bogus election audits could play a central role in flipping the swing state in Trump's favor in the case of a close Democratic win in 2024."