Far-right commentator and Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette’s last-minute surge fizzled out as the vote counting began in Pennsylvania Tuesday night.
Republicans of all stripes, including former President Donald Trump, had voiced concerns about her baggage. Just a few weeks of opposition research unearthed a trove of bigoted remarks. She claimed that homosexuality is a “slippery slope” to pedophilia and incest, compared Islam to the “worldviews” of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin and assiduously spread the lie that former President Barack Obama is Muslim.
“Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the general election against the radical left Democrats,” Trump said in a statement, adding: “She has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted.”
“I lost by 19 points, Donald Trump lost by more than 26 points,” Barnette retorted, citing stats from her unsuccessful 2020 congressional run. “Who’s less electable with those numbers?”
Barnette’s popularity grew in the later weeks of the campaign, particularly while erstwhile frontrunners TV personality and doctor Mehmet Oz and hedge fund manager David McCormick traded insults and multi-million dollar attack ad campaigns.
Now, the two deep-pocketed enemies are locked in an achingly close race for the primary.
With an estimated 95 percent of the vote tallied, Oz has just over a 2,500-vote lead with 31.3 percent of the vote, according to the Associated Press. McCormick is breathing down his neck with 31.1 percent.
If the race stays this close, it’ll trigger an automatic recount. For Pennsylvania statewide elections, the margin has to be .5 percent or less.
The secretary of state would have to order a recount by 5 p.m. the second Thursday after the election. That would be next Thursday, May 26. Counties would have to submit their totals to the secretary’s office by noon on June 8.
Three voters in a given district can also request a recount, which doesn’t require any set threshold, if they submit an affidavit claiming errors in the vote totals. The requesters have to pay for the recount, unless fraud or substantial errors are found, in which case the money is reimbursed.
That McCormick and Oz stay bound together is a poetic end to a campaign dominated by their race to be the MAGA-est and to win Trump’s endorsement.
Oz won the latter prize, much to the chagrin of establishment players who cast their lots with McCormick.
Trump based his support solely on Oz’s celebrity.
“You know when you’re in television for 18 years, that’s like a poll,” Trump said. “That means people like you.”
But Oz has weaknesses. In a Trumpian turn, he once held political positions that are anathema to today’s GOP. That includes questioning the scientific validity of fetal heartbeat bills, acknowledging the reality of systemic racism in health care and treating transitioning children on his TV show with some degree of sympathy. The fact that he is a Muslim with Turkish dual citizenship also flies in the face of the Republican Party’s ever more eager embrace of nativism and, often, Islamophobia.
To top it off, he’s not exactly a diehard Pennsylvanian. The longtime New Jersey resident used his in-laws’ address to vote in the commonwealth in 2020, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
McComick also went full MAGA in his pursuit of a Trump endorsement. He hired Trump veterans including Hope Hicks and made high-visibility trips to the southern border to decry illegal immigration. He tweeted out Breitbart articles and aired a campaign ad during the Super Bowl in which people chant “let’s go, Brandon!”
But in some ways, the MAGA suit has been an awkward fit for the Wall Street titan. After three attempts to dodge a Bloomberg reporter’s question about whether the 2020 election was stolen, he ended the interview.
“I think on the national level, maybe to just take that, we have all sorts of indications of electoral — let me talk about Pennsylvania as an example of the broader thing we have, which is we’ve got all sorts of election irregularities which have essentially created a situation where Republicans, the majority of Republicans, don’t believe in the results —,” he flailed.
“So I don’t know David well and he may be a nice guy, but he’s not MAGA, he’s not MAGA,” Trump said at an Oz rally. “He’s more Toomey than he is MAGA. I do know that he was with a company that managed money for communist China, and he is absolutely the candidate of special interests and globalists and the Washington establishment.”