Pennsylvania Republicans go to the polls Tuesday to select a nominee in a U.S. Senate race thrown into turmoil by entry of a Trump-endorsed TV doctor and the sudden rise of an outspoken black conservative.
The race is being closely watched nationally, as Democrats have a chance to flip the Republican-held seat even though Democrats will likely nominate a controversial leftist in a tough year nationally.
Pittsburgh businessman and U.S. Army veteran Dave McCormick was an early favorite to win the GOP nomination to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey.
But the race was suddenly thrown into a virtual tie by the entry of Mehmet Oz, better known as TV’s “Dr. Oz.”
The popular TV host, an acolyte of Oprah Winfrey, leapt into a tie with McCormick with his endorsement by former President Donald Trump. Oz was once a contestant on Trump’s “The Apprentice” TV show.
“I have known Dr. Oz for many years, as have many others, even if only through his very successful television show,” Trump said. “He has lived with us through the screen and has always been popular, respected and smart.”
Oz remained in the lead, despite supporting abortion, gun bans and transgender surgery on children until just before announcing his candidacy. Oz has also had difficulty explaining his decision to maintain dual citizenship in his native Turkey, where he voted in 2018.
The race became a de facto showdown between establishment Republicans and Trump supporters, but months of bitter fighting may have left voters looking for an alternative.
That led to the sudden rise of Kathy Barnette, an outspoken black conservative activist.
Barnette has gone from polling in single digits in March to a virtual three-way tie days before the election, leading to attacks on her from both Oz and McCormick surrogates.
Establishment Republicans have blasted Barnette’s outspoken social conservatism as unelectable and a threat to hand the seat to Democrats, pointing to Twitter posts blasting Islam and gays.
Oz supporters have focused on Barnette’s past criticism of Trump, though that criticism was largely of his liberal record and at a time when Trump was the focus of attack by conservatives.
The attacks on her electability and harsh rhetoric seemed to have only strengthened Barnette, who has leapt into contention despite being outspent on television 358-to-1, The New York Post reports.
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