I had a chance to address the New Jersey GOP last Saturday at its annual summit in Atlantic City. We discussed the issues Republicans must effectively address to win in New Jersey and nationwide. We settled on parental rights as a key issue with legs. The caveat was that all the wisdom in the world won’t matter with the wrong candidate.

This problem allowed me to talk about the importance of choosing the right candidates in Pennsylvania, particularly candidates who match the sensibilities of suburban voters. It also allowed me to reveal that in an interview on my radio show and a subsequent interview in “Politico,” Doug Mastriano revealed that he is praying with his wife about running for the Senate against U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. in 2024.

Most people at this conference couldn’t believe Mastriano would run for the Senate seat after the damage he caused. His strange and extreme campaign resulted in several Republicans losing their seats by very tiny margins. Those losses allowed Democrats to take over the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and also cost us the chance of getting voter identification on the ballot in May as a constitutional amendment that Gov. Josh Shapiro couldn’t veto. His massive loss to Shapiro also helped to defeat Dr. Oz in his Senate race against John Fetterman.

In one of his most recent interviews with me, Mastriano blamed his loss on Republicans not funding him, national Republicans not supporting him, and the advantage Democrats had by running a masterful mail-in ballot campaign. He rejected my argument that his no-exceptions policy on abortion, even in the cases of the life of the mother, rape, or incest, doomed him from the start. I told him that no candidate could run for statewide office and win in Pennsylvania if they had a no-exceptions policy on banning abortions.

Of course, after his interview with me, he latched onto a phony poll that claimed to be from Susquehanna Polling but which it immediately denied was theirs. The poll had Mastriano leading Sen. Bob Casey, and the poll claimed that abortion was no longer a key issue and inflation was a much bigger issue.

However, a new poll from Public Policy Polling is legitimate. Doug Mastriano at 42 percent leading former and potential future Senate candidate Dave McCormick came in at 28 percent. I interviewed McCormick on his new book on Monday, and he will probably run again.

Here’s the challenge the Pennsylvania GOP faces: I’m convinced that Mastriano has a firm base of support, voters who don’t care about the damage he has already done to the party. He would lose badly to Casey in the general election and greatly harm the chances of the Republican presidential candidate to carry the swing state of Pennsylvania.

The reaction of the Mastriano masses: So what? Not our problem.

When I mentioned the possibility of Mastriano being the Republican candidate on WPVI’s Inside Story last Sunday, the two Democrats told me they were praying for that outcome. If you remember, Democrats spent money on ads promoting Mastriano during the GOP gubernatorial primary because they knew he would be Shapiro’s weakest opponent.

They were right.

What needs to happen now is for Republican groups to start running ads that detail what damage the Mastriano campaign caused and how much more his nomination would cause in 2024. The control of the United States Senate — perhaps even the White House — could ride on Pennsylvania Republicans acting early and decisively.

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