At a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh this month, Democratic governor candidate Josh Shapiro made his way through the crowd and approached Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman with an open palm.
The two went in for the kind of handshake exchanged between teammates in a locker room, with a slap on the back to top it off. Fetterman pointed with both index fingers in the air at Shapiro and shouted, “Our next governor!”
Shapiro, his voice roaring through the crowd, pointed back to Fetterman and exclaimed, “The 51st Voice!”
The friendly interaction as the Pennsylvania Democrats’ top two contenders is the result of a long-standing working relationship between Shapiro and Fetterman, who served together in Tom Wolf’s administration and have a long string of brutal exchanges online. They have shared Pictures from their families together at events – and spend time campaign together long before their current bids for higher office. Shapiro, seemingly jokingly, ever called Fetterman’s ‘little brother’.
But with bigger elections at stake, the display of political camaraderie is more at stake and the perception of unity is especially valuable. While they portray Democrats at the top of the Pennsylvania ticket as united – the Republican ticket has more of a shotgun engagement energy.
The two Democrats are different kinds of politicians: Shapiro is more polished and traditional, Fetterman has more of an ordinary man’s air. They come from opposite ends of the state, with Fetterman building his political career in the western Braddock neighborhood and Shapiro in the Philadelphia suburbs. Fetterman is ostensibly more progressive, while Shapiro has taken a more moderate, pragmatic approach in his campaign.
But instead of their two different political personalities clashing, Shapiro and Fetterman seem to be devising a strategy to complement each other statewide. Former Pennsylvania Democratic Party chairman TJ Rooney described it as the “ying and the yang of the Democratic Party coming together for a common purpose”.
“It’s great because they play to each other’s strengths,” said Rooney, pointing out that Fetterman and Shapiro “are not cut from the same cloth, from a distance.”
In a swing state like Pennsylvania—where Republicans desperately hope to regain control of the governor’s mansion and maintain their grip on the Senate seat—both parties’ ability to win on the margins is vital to their success. By having two candidates with different professions, strategists like Rooney think Democrats have a wider network to garner voter support.
Shapiro and Fetterman’s dynamism is complimented by the strength of the Democrats coming on the path. sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), for example, has punched both Shapiro and Fetterman and has now encouraged trademark social media exchanges with Fetterman, who is arguably the most online Senate candidate this cycle.
In a photo tweeted by Fetterman from the trail in August, he and Casey stood with two women wearing inflatable broccoli costumes — a dig at a viral video of Oz calling a vegetable plate a “crudités.”
And in a TikTok, Casey outlined his vision for Fetterman’s victory, waving his hand over a giant map of Pennsylvania and predicting the Senate’s vote of hope in the most rural areas of the Keystone State.
Even Fetterman’s most prominent primary challengers, including Rep. Conor Lamb, state senator Malcolm Kenyatta and Val Arkoosh also get to work. At an event earlier this month, Lamb, Kenyatta, Fetterman and Arkoosh stood together in a photo Kenyatta later captioned it with “Democrats are UNITED.”
At a press conference last week in support of Shapiro, Kenyatta told The Daily Beast it was an easy decision for Democrats to merge this cycle. “It was not a big debate on our side as to whether he should lead our party or whether he should lead this ticket.”
Shapiro, who is currently the state’s attorney general, was the only candidate for the Democratic nomination.
The burgeoning professional bromance between Fetterman and Shapiro, coupled with their unified support from leading state Democrats, comes in stark contrast to Republicans, who seemingly can’t do the same finesse.
Television doctor Mehmet Oz and far-right governor candidate Doug Mastriano have an uneasy marriage on top of the ticket. Both endorsed by former President Donald Trump, they racked up double primary wins while taking advantage of Pennsylvania’s MAGA-loyal vote
But that’s where their right-wing camaraderie seems to end.
The leading Republicans’ only public event to date was when Trump visited Pennsylvania this month and invited Oz and Mastriano to share the stage as lead-up speakers — and while speaking back-to-back, they didn’t appear on the screen together. podium on camera. Neither the Oz nor the Mastriano campaign responded to requests for comment about whether Oz and Mastriano have spent any more time together this cycle, plan to do so in the future, or how they keep in touch more generally.
The two exchanged at least one text message congratulating each other on the first night, according to the UKTN.
Their apparent unkindness goes back to that primary cycle. At the time, Mastriano was a staunch supporter of Kathy Barnette, a far-right commentator the Democrats subtly aspired to, believing she would be the easiest to beat of all the GOP Senate primary contenders. But while working for Barnette, Mastriano actively hit on Oz with many of the same talking points Democrats now use.
“Who’s he hanging out with, you know, Oprah Winfrey? You know, the Hollywood class. We have tapes of him, you know, he approves of abortion, all of a sudden he’s pro-life now because his Republican primary, we have video of him, encouraging, you know, changing your gender and all this stuff,” said Mastriano in an interview on The Bombeck Show in March.
“And so I, you know, something’s wrong. And he wasn’t even living in Pennsylvania when he entered this race,” he added.
Since then, the duo has done little to quell questions about their relationship — and outside players aren’t helping Republicans like a unified ticket.
Mastriano’s most talked-about campaign worker, Jenna Ellis, this month responded on a tweet from Oz saying he would support legislation in the Senate to codify same-sex marriage into law, curtly: “Whew. Pennsylvania, please go out and show up for Doug Mastriano.”
sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), the outgoing Pennsylvania senator who wants to replace both Oz and Fetterman, has supported and campaigned alongside Oz but refuses to do the same for Mastriano. He has repeatedly told reporters that he is focusing on the Senate seat and a few House races.
According to Politico, the wife of Oz’s campaign co-chair, Jeff Bartos, who had run for the Senate seat himself, this week co-organized a fundraiser for none other than Shapiro, the Democratic governor’s candidate. Bartos accompanied his wife at the event.
And unlike the Democratic side, failed GOP primary contenders haven’t all come out to play. Barnette, for example, made it clear in June that she had not yet endorsed Oz this cycle, and she did not respond to a request for comment whether that has changed. Sightings of primary challengers in the general election path are scarce.
In terms of style, the two are remarkably different. Oz is a wealthy television personality who prides himself on intellect and education, while Mastriano is a star among Christian nationalists, a military veteran and unafraid of isolating marginalized groups. Mastriano has declined interviews with virtually every news agency that has approached him.
Mastriano also notably has a history of sharing Islamophobic and anti-Islamic messages, including one that suggested Americans should fear Muslims serving in Congress. Oz, if elected, would be the first Muslim to serve in the Senate.
The Oz campaign did not respond to whether Oz is concerned about these past feelings of Mastriano, and the Mastriano campaign did not respond to whether Mastriano still takes his stance on Muslims serving in Congress.
While the Republicans are silent about their relationship, at a distance, the Democrats take notice and cash in.
Shapiro campaign spokesman Manual Bonder wrote in a statement to The Daily Beast: “Doug Mastriano has spent his entire campaign making it clear that he is too extreme for Pennsylvania. Now he is showing that he is even too extreme for his own out-of-state. touch running mate.”
“The next time Mehmet Oz is back from New Jersey,” he added, “they should probably come together to sort this out.”
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