A late surge by conservative commentator Kathy Barnette is scrambling Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary as voters head to polls today, while leading Democrat John Fetterman is recovering from a stroke, shaking up one of this year’s crucial midterm-election contests.
Barnette, who’s supported by the anti-tax group Club for Growth and who has made anti-Islamic and anti-gay remarks, has edged out former Bridgewater Associates CEO David McCormick, and is less than three points behind front-runner Mehmet Oz in RealClearPolitics’ poll average. Oz, a celebrity doctor, has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.
When shown a tweet of hers about Islam, Barnette told NBC News: “Yeah, no, I don’t think that’s me. I would never have said that.”
Pennsylvania is one of a handful of battleground states that will decide control of the Senate, along with Arizona, Ohio and others. Republicans are widely expected to regain control of the House of Representatives, and betting-market odds also give the GOP high chances for taking the Senate. PredictIt sees a 77% chance for Republican control of the Senate, and 86% for the GOP taking the House.
Read: Republicans may win not just House but also Senate in midterm elections — here are 2022’s Senate races to watch
Barnette’s rise has prompted Trump to redouble his efforts for Oz, saying in a statement on Thursday: “Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats.” The ex-president said Barnette has “many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted,” without giving examples. But Trump said he could support her in the future.
On the Democratic side, polling shows Fetterman with a commanding lead over his nearest challenger, Rep. Conor Lamb. Fetterman backs legalizing recreational marijuana
and is a criminal-justice reform advocate who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont independent, in the 2016 presidential race.
Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, was on his way to a “full recovery,” his campaign said on Sunday. “Feeling good, all things considered,” the 52-year-old said in a text message to the Associated Press. He is reportedly skipping his election-night rally, however, as he continues to recover.
Read: Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman says he had a stroke, but ‘feeling good’
Now see: Dr. Oz, an ex-Bridgewater CEO and the ‘gentle giant’: How the Pennsylvania Senate race could shake up national politics
On her Twitter feed and in her biography, Barnette describes herself as an anti-establishment candidate who grew up in poverty, and authored the book “Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America.” Barnette, if elected, would be the first Black Republican woman to ever serve in the U.S. Senate, according to the AP.
President Joe Biden’s agenda would face a setback if his party were to lose its grip on both chambers of Congress. As MarketWatch has reported, analysts have said Democrats’ loss of Congress could mean an increase in attempts by the executive branch to regulate sectors including banks
Also read: Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade would boost Democratic turnout for midterm elections, analysts say