Lee Zeldin may not have won the race to become the next governor of New York, but he came closer to winning than Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano, and, in the process, he helped boost GOP House candidates to victory.
In Pennsylvania, Republicans took the bait from the Democratic Party and nominated Mastriano, who wanted to overturn the results of the 2020 election. As Kate Scanlon reported for the Washington Examiner in May, “Some state Republicans were concerned Mastriano would hurt Republicans’ chances of winning not just the governor’s mansion but the Senate race and some congressional contests. They attempted to coalesce the field around former Rep. Lou Barletta, arguing he was better positioned to defeat Shapiro in November.”
Whether or not Barletta would have defeated state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the governor’s race, it is evident that Mastriano hurt Republicans down-ballot. Mastriano actually received around 200,000 fewer votes than Mehmet Oz did in his Senate race (with 94% of the vote in), while Shapiro dragged John Fetterman across the finish line. The New York Times listed three Pennsylvania House races as toss-ups, and Republicans lost all three. Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District was listed as one Democrats should win “narrowly.” Instead, the Democrat won by roughly 12 points.
Compare that with Zeldin’s performance in New York. With 94% of the vote in, Zeldin kept his deficit under 6 points. Republicans had previously lost the governor’s race in New York by 23 points in 2018, 14 points in 2014, 30 points in 2010, and 38 points in 2006.
Zeldin’s performance also lifted Republicans down-ballot. The New York Times listed five New York House races in the state as toss-ups; Republicans won four, and will likely win the fifth. There were three races the New York Times categorized as “Republicans expected to win narrowly.” Republicans have been declared the winners in all three, leading by 12 points, 22 points, and 24 points. Democrats were expected to win New York’s 18th Congressional District narrowly. The race is so narrow with over 95% of the vote in that the GOP may still win it.
Zeldin was a fantastic candidate who ran a superb campaign. While he didn’t pull off the upset of the cycle, he will be the man most responsible for the GOP taking control of the House if they do end up holding on. Mastriano, meanwhile, got blown out in a winnable race and took Republicans in the Senate and House races down with him.
That is the lesson for Republicans to learn from this election cycle. It wasn’t abortion that quelled the red wave, it was terrible GOP candidates in crucial races. If Republicans want to win in 2024, they need to embrace Zeldin’s blueprint. If they want yet another disappointment, they are free to continue to embrace the lunacy that led to nominating Mastriano.