PITTSBURGH— A a full week after Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania cast their ballots, no one yet knows who won the contest. The unsolved case has led to legal action, with former President Donald Trump telling his favored candidate to declare victory. Supporters on both sides are frustrated, and a valuable nomination for Republicans hangs in the balance. Some are even wondering if this family feud could cost them a very winnable seat.
Then again, if they’re smart, it could help them get a seat in 2024.
It all depends on whether David McCormick or Dr Mehmet Oz, the two rivals vying for the final votes, decide to end their campaign once all the ballots are in if they end up behind the other. The loser would then have to seek the winner’s help in becoming the state party’s new president after the November elections.
Why would they do that? First, why not? When you put your reputation and your name on a ballot and wage a grueling campaign, spending days and weeks away from your family, it’s hard to stop after missing a few hundred votes.
However, the loser of this race should see himself as the architect of a long-term plan to rebuild the shell of a once powerful party state. The candidate who fails this year should take the reins, raise funds and return the Pennsylvania GOP to the prestige it once held. If successful, the loser of this race will have put themselves in a position to make a credible run against Senator Bob Casey in 2024.
One of the biggest liabilities for both men in this race was that neither had a natural base within the state to defend themselves when the negative publicity hit. Either man would benefit from such a thing, and either as president could make the necessary connections. It would also benefit the party as a whole as it prepares for the 2024 presidential elections.
Democratic strategist Mike Mikus, who admits he’s not used to giving Republicans advice that doesn’t trip them up, says this path would make them fearsome: This year and probably 2024 doesn’t look so good for Democrats,” he said. The Democrats did very well in the 2006 midterm elections and the 2008 presidential race. Similarly, the Republicans won the 2014 midterm elections and capped that victory with a 2016 presidential victory.
“Then the pendulum swung back in our favor in 2018 and 2020,” Mikus said. Since neither side tends to learn lessons, he said, conditions will likely favor Republicans in 2022 and 2024.
He’s not wrong — even before President Joe Biden’s endorsement plunge last August, the story has always been against Democrats holding their majority this fall.
Jeff Brauer, a Keystone College professor and political scientist, warns that if they don’t get along, “the prolonged schism between the GOP candidates will only benefit the Democrats and their nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.” The longer this drags on, the less time the eventual winner will have to pivot to the general election and, more importantly, the less likely it is that the party will truly unite under the winner.”
Brauer said the bad blood this creates makes it less likely that the loser’s supporters will fully join in the general election. He added that Republicans should learn a lesson from the Georgia election runoff in January 2021 — how toxic it can be to question election results. Many Republican primary voters, inspired by Trump’s rhetoric that the election was rigged, simply didn’t show up to vote in the runoff.
The question now in Pennsylvania is whether the two men are ready to be that guy. To date, both campaigns decline to comment. It could be just the ticket to making Pennsylvania even better for Republicans.