Retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey was sharply critical of Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano on Thursday, blaming him for dragging down the candidacy of Mehmet Oz in the race to replace Toomey in the Senate.
The outgoing senator made the remarks in an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett.
Toomey started by saying that he thought Oz “ran a very good campaign.”
“So the question that I think arises is, ‘Why did a good candidate, running a good race, in what should be a very good environment, not prevail in a state like Pennsylvania — which is very, very competitive?” Toomey said.
“I think a big part of the reason was that at the top of the ticket, in the gubernatorial race, we had an ultra-MAGA candidate who never appeared to even attempt to expand beyond a hardcore base that was very, very committed to him. But he ended up losing in an epic beatdown.”
Toomey said it’s “very, very hard” for a Republican down-ballot to win with someone so unpopular at the top of the ticket. He pointed out that Oz’s loss to Democrat John Fetterman was relatively narrow when compared with Mastriano’s margin against Democratic candidate Josh Shapiro.
Toomey, who has been sharply critical of former President Donald Trump and the Republican party’s shift under his leadership, blamed the former president for involving himself in the selection of candidates across the country.
“This is a huge problem, and I think my party needs to face the fact that if fealty to Donald Trump is the primary criteria for selecting candidates, we’re probably not going to do really well,” he told Burnett.
Some background: The Trump-endorsed Mastriano came to national attention for his vehement election denialism and his presence in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021.
As the election went on, he did little to hedge his far-right positions or reach out to groups beyond his base of supporters, CNN’s Chris Cillizza wrote.
Oz, meanwhile, focused on bringing “balance” to the Senate in the final days of the race – casting himself a moderate voice who could navigate between extremes within the two parties.