Virtually every poll in recent weeks has shown Oz clinging to a small advantage in the margin of error. And an internal survey by pro-McCormick super PAC Honor Pennsylvania shows Barnette had a significant jump from the start to the end of last week, leaving all three candidates locked in a bind: McCormick at 25%, and Oz and Barnette tied. at 24 percent.
In Ohio’s contentious Republican Senate primary earlier this month, candidates quickly caved on election night and pledged their support for Trump’s pick JD Vance, who won by 7 points. The Pennsylvania contest seems unlikely to end with a similar GOP unit. Barnette said in a radio interview Monday that she had “no intention” of supporting Oz or McCormick if either is the nominee, calling the men “globalists.”
Several campaigns in the seven-candidate primary told POLITICO they were ready for a recount.
“It’s still possible,” said Bob Gillies, Barnette’s campaign manager, of a potential recount. “We want to make sure we are able to fight back if there is something like that.”
As the bitter primary drew to a close, the candidates and their allies remained on the attack in interviews, while agents continued to push the opposition’s last-minute searches. Most notably, Trump made a direct appeal to GOP voters in Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon, recording a robocall disparaging McCormick and Barnette and urging Republicans to run for Oz on Tuesday.
“People love him, otherwise he wouldn’t have been on the air for 18 years,” Trump said, referring to the long streak of years on Oz’s daytime TV show. “I just spent a lot of time with him. I endorsed him, and the reason is that he’s tough, he’s smart, and he really loves our country and wants to do a great job for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Although he called McCormick a “good person,” Trump described the former hedge fund CEO as “an insider who completely sold us out on China.”
“I can’t have this,” Trump continued.
Trump mentioned what constitutes an unforgivable sin for the Republican base: Barnette’s support in 2020 for the construction of an Obama family statue in Washington, DC’s Lincoln Park. She suggested at the time that he should go next to a monument that depicts Abraham Lincoln standing over an emancipated slave.
“It’s not good,” Trump said of Barnette’s idea. “These are not America-first candidates, and that’s what we need.”
The Oz campaign said it does not pay for Trump’s robocalls. A person working for Trump’s political arm did not respond to a request for comment.
Trump was also scheduled to participate in a live teleconference with Oz on Monday evening – which the Oz campaign funded – and the two have spoken to each other several times over the past week.
According to a person familiar with the calls, the former president urged Oz to ‘keep fighting’, while Oz continued to express his gratitude to Trump for his support – an endorsement that changed Oz’s fortunes in the race. Immediately before Trump’s endorsement of Oz in early April, polls showed McCormick with a slight advantage over the doctor, whose unfavorable ratings are much higher than other candidates in the race.
Barnette’s unexpected rise came as Oz and McCormick poured tens of millions of dollars into television ads and outside spending groups supporting the two candidates spent heavily on attack ads. Through Tuesday, spending on TV, digital and radio ads in the primary totaled more than $57 million, according to ad tracking firm AdImpact.
Less than $200,000 came from Barnette’s campaign. But the Club for Growth, which announced last week that its super PAC was supporting Barnette, just spent more than $2 million on last-minute publicity on her behalf.
McCormick’s and Oz’s campaigns nearly matched each other in terms of ad spend, although the pro-McCormick super PAC significantly outpaced the two pro-Oz groups.
Over the past week, however, four super PACs have pivoted to attack Barnette on TV. The pro-Oz American Leadership Action appears to have sent at least four anti-Barnette texts to voters, spreading messages such as “BLM Radical Kathy Barnette thinks that” on every corner there is a police officer ready to shoot a black man”. .’” Texts linked to CrazyKathy.com, which redirects to the site of American Leadership Action.
Claims about Barnette’s opinions on Black Lives Matter have been misleading, according to independent fact checks.
In another text, the super PAC said “Donald Trump and Sean Hannity know Kathy Barnette is lying,” before accusing her of lying about aspects of her military experience and “almost everything about her past.” Barnette, who in recent days has declined to answer some questions about her time in the military, maintains she has been truthful about the biographical information she provided.
Over the weekend, Barnette faced an onslaught of reports – including from conservative media – questioning aspects of her resume, her voting record and where she has lived in the past years. . So far, Barnette has largely avoided scrutiny from other campaigns or the media.
McCormick’s camp sought to use a similar line of attack against Oz, who was portrayed as a sleazy Hollywood liberal.
“You see people moving to McCormick because he’s a trustworthy conservative,” said James Schultz, a former Trump White House attorney who is close to McCormick’s campaign. “We have seen throughout this cycle Mehmet Oz’s struggle with the truth. With Barnette, there have also been many questions regarding its veracity.
McCormick’s campaign messages on Monday appeared to admit he was one of multiple candidates crammed into the front of the pack. The campaign wrote in an election-eve press release that McCormick would argue to Republicans that he is “the only frontrunner who grew up in Pennsylvania and shares the same conservative values as PA voters.”
A series of other developments in recent days have added to the sentiment of volatility ahead of Tuesday’s primary election. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, the leading Democratic Senate candidate, remains hospitalized after suffering a stroke over the weekend. And Trump on Saturday weighed in with a last-minute endorsement in the governor’s race, choosing Doug Mastriano, the candidate who publicly supports and campaigns with Barnette.