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Doug Mastriano embraces another dodgy poll showing him with a lead in the race for governor

Another week, another questionable poll embraced by State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania.

State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, speaks to supporters in Aston, Delaware County, on Aug. 24.
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, speaks to supporters in Aston, Delaware County, on Aug. 24.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer

When it comes to dodgy polls, Doug Mastriano just can’t say no.

The Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania on Monday embraced a poll posted on Twitter that claimed to show him holding a 3.8% lead over the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.

This comes a week after Mastriano was duped into promoting a similar poll from someone who later said they were a high school student testing to see if Republicans promote polls that offer good news even if they “don’t seem legitimate.”

That brings us to Big Penguin Polling, which has been posting alleged survey results on Twitter since late May.

Gerald “Bern” Bolick, a 24-year-old with a very short resumé in public opinion research, told Clout he started Big Penguin with two friends this year because they did not trust polls during the 2020 presidential election.

Bolick, who declined to provide last names for his partners, said they live in Spruce Pine, N.C., a rural town in the Appalachian Mountains. He said their previous experience was “just doing stuff around town, asking people their opinions” for the local newspaper.

Big Penguin is not a registered business in North Carolina and, until this week, its logo was a copyrighted cartoon penguin from a Nintendo video game. Bolick runs the Twitter account, which traffics in the sort of hot takes popular with supporters of former President Donald Trump.

An example: A tweet last week suggested that, if Trump is indicted for allegedly hoarding classified documents after leaving office “then you’re going to see an actual Insurrection take place from people.”

That sort of thing fuels skeptics who suggest Big Penguin polls are fake.

Bolick told Clout he uses state-generated voter rolls to create polls for each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties through MeetingPulse, a website that enables organizations to conduct polls and surveys during in-person and teleconferencing meetings.

A MeetingPulse spokesperson told Clout that Bolick and Big Penguin Polling are not on the company’s client list.

The Mastriano poll overrepresented Republicans in the state while underrepresenting Democrats and independents. Bolick said he did that because he thinks independents lean Republican.

As for the established polls, an average compiled by the website FiveThirtyEight gives Shapiro a 7.3% edge in the race while an average by RealClearPolitics shows Shapiro with a 5.9% lead.

Mastriano, who also retweeted a Big Penguin poll in July, didn’t respond to a request for comment, a result as predicable as his sharing dodgy polls on Twitter.

Jenna Ellis, his campaign’s senior legal adviser, also fell last week for the high schooler’s fake polling. Maybe she learned a lesson? She tweeted Monday: “Don’t believe the polls, good or bad. SHOW UP AND VOTE NOVEMBER 8!”

Oz: ‘I can only speak to what I’m saying’

Mehmet Oz, the celebrity surgeon and Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, suggested Tuesday that voters should only listen to him — and not what his campaign has to say.

Oz was pressed by KDKA radio hosts in Pittsburgh about whether it was “appropriate” for Rachel Tripp, his campaign’s senior communications adviser, to say last week that the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, might not have suffered a stroke in May if he “had ever eaten a vegetable in his life.”

“The campaigns are saying lots of things, both of them,” Oz said. “My position is — I can only speak to what I’m saying — is that John Fetterman should be allowed to recover fully. And I will support his ability, as someone who is going through a difficult time, to get ready.”

Oz said he feels “tremendous empathy” as a doctor for Fetterman, while repeatedly returning to his frustration that the Democrat won’t commit to a schedule for debates.

Oz the doctor was at odds with Oz the candidate.

“I have no idea if he’s recovered. He’s told us nothing,” Oz said. “And it’s actually up to him to decide when he’s comfortable sharing with that. Again, I’m a physician first.”

Fetterman, who has been venturing back onto the campaign trail after months mostly out of sight, responded to Tripp’s quip last week by tweeting: “I know politics can be nasty, but even then, I could never imagine ridiculing someone for their health challenges.”

Oz has some history with disavowing things said in his name. In April, he distanced himself from a series of columns that ran under his name, calling for stricter gun-control laws and a national ban on assault-style weapons.

Rebecca Katz, a Fetterman campaign strategist, responded Tuesday by saying Oz should “either stand by the sh—ty things this campaign is saying on your behalf or denounce it.”

Fetterman’s camp later said he will not participate in a debate next week.

Another Oz spokesperson, Brittany Yanick, then called Fetterman “a liar, a liberal, and a coward.”

The campaign did not say if Oz endorsed that message.


I mean full pardons with an apology to many. They’ve been so badly treated.”

Donald Trump, calling into Wendy Bell Radio on Thursday in Pittsburgh, claiming he will pardon participants in the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot if he runs again and wins. Trump is holding a rally in Wilkes-Barre on Saturday for Mastriano and Oz. Seventy-three people with ties to Pennsylvania have been charged with crimes stemming from Jan. 6, and 35 have pleaded guilty.

Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.