Peter Hall, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
Campaigning for Pennsylvania’s Republican gubernatorial and U.S. Senate nominees on Saturday, former President Donald Trump cast Doug Mastriano and Dr. Mehmet Oz as vital leaders in a fight to take back the state and country starting with this year’s midterm election.
Trump spoke for nearly two hours at the rally outside Wilkes-Barre in Luzerne County, at the heart of a region Trump carried handily over President Joe Biden in 2020.
In his rambling and invective-studded style, Trump cataloged what he said were Biden’s failures that reversed the gains of his administration, and repeated his baseless claim that he won reelection.
“We have no choice in 2022 and 2024. We have to smash the grip of this vile and vindictive Democratic administration,” Trump said.
Trump has not announced that he will be a candidate in 2024, but he riled up supporters musing that he should.
“I ran twice. I won twice,” he said, claiming to have received more votes than any sitting president.
“I may just have to do it again,” Trump said, repeating the words as the crowd cheered wildly.
Trump’s appearance in the nearly-full Mohegan Sun Arena capped a five-hour rally where Oz, Mastriano and Republican U.S. House nominees Jim Bognet and Dan Meuser also spoke.
The rally featured another star of the far-right, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who also made the baseless claim that Trump won in 2020.
In a theme repeated by several speakers, Taylor Greene referenced Biden’s speech Thursday in Philadelphia, where he warned that the politically extreme MAGA movement posed a threat to the country.
“Joe Biden has declared all of you extremists,” Taylor Greene said, drawing boos and jeers from the crowd. “Joe Biden has declared half of this country enemies of the state.”
Trump also seized on Biden’s criticism, calling it vicious and hateful, and noting that his choice of Philadelphia to deliver the speech was fitting, arguing that the state’s largest city has been devastated by rising crime under Democratic leadership.
“Instead of trying to demonize half the population, Joe Biden and the Democrats should vote to stop the bloodshed,” Trump said.
Trump also claimed the FBI’s execution of a search warrant last month at his Mar-a-Lago resort was an example of Democratic extremism and a weaponization of the U.S. Justice Department., Trump falsely accused agents of breaking into his home, and said they went through former First Lady Melania Trump’s drawers.
It was well into his speech before Trump began talking about the Pennsylvania candidates, using a derogatory nickname to describe Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro, and falsely stating Shapiro would allow abortion after birth.
Trump likewise criticized Democratic U.S. Senate nominee John Fetterman, saying that “he dresses like a teenager getting high in his parents’ basement,” and argued that Fetterman’s policy positions on legalizing marijuana and immigration would bring “death and despair to every community in Pennsylvania.”
Trump delivered a tepid endorsement of Oz, beginning with a story about appearing on Oz’s TV show, where the doctor said he should lose some weight.
“He’s going to be great,” Trump said.
Speaking about May’s Republican gubernatorial primary, where Mastriano, a state senator, emerged as an unlikely victor from a crowded field, Trump praised the GOP nominee for his U.S. Army service, and suggested that he is the most respected person in the Pennsylvania Senate.
Trump took a swipe at Bill McSwain, the former U.S. attorney from Philadelphia who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for governor. Trump refused to endorse McSwain, and called him a coward during the primary for failing to act on Trump’s claims of election fraud in 2020.
“He was a nice guy but he wouldn’t do anything about election fraud,” Trump said. “He said [former U.S. Attorney General] Bill Barr won’t let me do anything about it.”
Speaking earlier in the evening, Mastriano, and his wife Rebbie, delivered a version of the stump speech they have given together at campaign stops across the state.
Mastriano spoke of a “filthy stinking laundry list” of issues Democrats don’t want to discuss, including critical race theory, transgender women playing women’s sports, and pandemic closures and mandates.
He also spoke about a day-one agenda if he is elected that includes ending mask and vaccine requirements as a condition of employment, and developing Pennsylvania’s energy resources.
“On day one we are going to roll back regulations and drill and dig like there’s no tomorrow,” Mastriano said.
Addressing the crowd before Trump’s appearance, Oz introduced himself as the son of immigrants, and used his credentials as a surgeon to attack Democratic policies on vaccines, energy and gender theory as weaponized science.
He also mocked Fetterman as the “poster boy of the radical far-left arm of the Democratic Party,” and took a shot at Fetterman’s health.
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May, and was absent from the campaign trail until last month.
“I’m a doctor, I understand how difficult it is when you have had a stroke,” Oz said.
Fetterman also declined to debate Oz, saying that his recovery was not complete enough for him to put forth his best performance.
Oz sketched out a “pretend debate” in which he predicted Fetterman’s response to questions about his push for legalized marijuana, and clemency for those charged with marijuana possession.
“He’d probably say it sounded good on Twitter,” Oz said
Fetterman’s campaign spokesman Joe Calvello responded to Trump and Oz’s remarks in a statement.
“More and more lies from Trump and Dr. Oz; another day, but it’s the same crap from these two desperate and sad dudes,” the statement read.
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