It’s a sprint to the finish line in Pennsylvania Senate race

Politics

(NewsNation) — It’s the last-minute sprint to the finish line in the Pennsylvania Senate race as the top three GOP contenders make their final pleas to voters with less than 24 hours until polls open.

Businessman and former hedge fund manager David McCormick spent the day meeting with supporters in Middletown, a small borough in the center of the state, working to pick up undecided voters in a county that President Joe Biden won in 2020.

Former President Donald Trump has endorsed heart surgeon-turned-television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, but a member of Trump’s inner circle, Hope Hicks, was in the front row supporting McCormick on Monday.

McCormick brushed off Trump’s opposition, telling NewsNation it’s about who can get the job done.

“In the end, Pennsylvania voters are zeroed on three questions; who shares my conservative values, who can actually get there on day one and make a big difference,” McCormick said.

For Mary Kipple, who volunteered for Trump in 2016 and 2020, his endorsement doesn’t factor into this race.

“I think people are voting how they want to, not so much about Trump,” she said.

One McCormick supporter says his household is split, telling NewsNation his wife is voting for Dr. Oz.

“Oz is just a TV personality,” McCormick supporter Tom Petrisko said.

However, Oz is leading in the latest Emerson College polling with 28% of the vote.

Surging into second is relative newcomer Kathy Barnett with 24% of the vote.

McCormick is currently in third place with 21% of the vote.

What was once a contest between two big spenders is now a three-way race.

In recent weeks, conservative commentator Barnette has shot up in the polls.

Her sudden and meteoric rise and grassroots support have sent some Republicans into a tailspin, who fear the controversial candidate could cost them the general election.

Barnette has recently been under fire for resurfaced social media posts comparing Islam to Nazism and making negative comments about the LGBTQ community.

On Thursday, she responded, telling her supporters, “they’re coming out with long knives at this point.”

In recent years, Barnette has become a speaker for anti-abortion causes. It’s an issue that’s deeply personal for the Senate candidate who said she was born after her mother was raped at the age of 11.

If elected, Barnette would become the first Black woman to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate.

Tuesday’s primary will be another test of Trump’s endorsement power.

Trump-backed candidates have had mixed results in primaries so far: J.D. Vance won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Ohio but the former president’s preferred candidate for governor in Nebraska was defeated earlier this week.

In Pennsylvania, Trump is supporting Dr. Oz, whom Barnette has slammed as a liberal.

“Mehmet said that MAGA means respect, no MAGA means freedom and if you are a conservative Republican, you know that,” said Barnette.

Despite Barnette’s embrace of Trump’s signature phrase, the former president has made it clear she does not have his support.

“Kathy is gonna be a lot of trouble,” Trump said at a tele-rally with Oz. He went on to say Barnette is “totally unknown.”

There is also uncertainty on the Democratic side in Pennsylvania, as Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who is leading in polls and fundraising in the Democratic Party’s primary for U.S. Senate, remained in the hospital Monday after suffering a stroke right before the weekend.

His campaign said he won’t appear at Tuesday’s election night party in Pittsburgh, though Fetterman said Sunday that he is feeling better, expected to make a full recovery and will resume campaigning after getting some rest.

His competitors, current U.S. Congressman Conor Lamb and state Representative Malcom Kenyatta have wished him well.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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