Trump seeks to push Oz past Barnette as Pa. primary nears conclusion

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Former President Donald Trump on Monday attempted to push his preferred nominee in the high-stakes Republican primary for the US Senate across the finish line in Pennsylvania, while a rising rival declined to support her key opponents if she defeated the nomination does not win.

The developments underscored the chaotic end to the primary in one of the most closely watched Senate races in the country. On the Democratic side, the campaign’s lead contender, Lt. gov. John Fetterman on Monday that he would not attend a primary overnight rally on Tuesday after suffering a stroke last week. Fetterman will remain in the hospital, according to his campaign.

Trump, who is backing politician-turned-politician Mehmet Oz in the Republican primary, on Monday slammed insurgent candidate Kathy Barnette, claiming she wasn’t fully scrutinized.

“People don’t know her,” Trump said of Barnette in an interview with The Washington Post. “She wasn’t checked properly. She recently ran for Congress and lost by about 20 points.” Barnette, who has endorsed many of Trump’s ideas although she didn’t have his support, took part in the “Stop the Steal” rally in Washington on January 6, 2021, the day the US Capitol was attacked by a pro-Trump mob.

Barnette did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s remarks.

The former president reiterated that he “stands behind Oz all the time.” He said he had a personal connection with Oz and argued that he would give the Republicans the best chance of holding the seat in November. “I also think Oz will do best in the general election,” Trump said.

Trump also recorded a robocall in support of Oz that slandered Barnette and another rival, businessman David McCormick. Calling the latter “an insider who absolutely sold us to China,” he slammed Barnette over a proposal she made during her losing 2020 campaign for a seat in the US House of Representatives to erect a statue of the Obama family in Washington. “This is not good,” the former president said in the call. “These are not candidates who put America first.”

McCormick’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s attack. His campaign previously responded to a similar Trump attack by saying, “Dave’s battle-hardened experience will make him one of the strongest senators in Washington when it comes to holding China accountable and restoring pro-growth America First policies.” Before running for Senate, McCormick ran a hedge fund with significant investments in China.

Polls have shown a competitive Republican race, with support for Barnette on the rise. Adding to tensions in the race, Barnette said Monday she will not support McCormick or Oz in the general election. “I have no intention of supporting globalists,” Barnette told Breitbart News on Monday. “I don’t think we have room for this spacecraft on this runway.”

Voters will go to the polls in five states Tuesday to select candidates for November’s midterm elections. The vote will serve as the latest test of Trump’s influence over his party.

The Senate race in Pennsylvania is one of several expected to take into account which party controls the upper house of Congress next year. The resignation of Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) sparked the open race.

Fetterman, who is polled high in the Democratic race, said Sunday he suffered a stroke late last week and is recovering.

“I wasn’t feeling well but was so focused on the campaign that I ignored the signs and just kept going. It finally caught up with me on Friday,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I had a stroke caused by a clot in my heart being in an A-Fib rhythm for too long.”

Doctors at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital “were able to quickly and completely remove the clot,” he added in his statement. He said his doctors told him he “didn’t suffer any cognitive damage.”

Uncertainty over the details of his campaign return hung over the race in the final hours before voters cast their votes. Rep. Conor Lamb and State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, two Democrats running against Fetterman, wished him a speedy recovery.

Meanwhile, Trump’s clout with Republicans was being tested in other states as well.

In North Carolina on Monday, he defended Rep. Madison Cawthorn despite members of his party denouncing the GOP freshman as a fabulous fabulist.

“Recently he’s made some stupid mistakes that I don’t think he’ll make again,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the media site he launched this year but has rarely contributed to. “Let’s give Madison a second chance!”

Some local Democrats have urged their constituents to pull a Republican ballot to beat Cawthorn, and running for state senator Chuck Edwards has presented him with a chance to force the congressman into a runoff. To avoid that, Cawthorn needs to win more than 30 percent of the vote.

Also in North Carolina, Trump endorsed Rep. Ted Budd in the GOP primary to replace Senator Richard Burr, a Republican who is retiring. Polls in the final weeks of the race showed Budd building a lead over former Gov. Pat McCrory.

In Idaho, while Trump had challenged Lt. gov. Janice McGeachin vs. Gov. Brad Little (R) supported but did not fight there, and McGeachin had raised little money to fund a far-right campaign calling for a total abortion ban – and included recorded video for attendees at a white nationalist conference.

Conservatives in Idaho were more hopeful about their chances of unseating another Republican, Rep. Mike Simpson, who was on the ballot for the first time since voting against GOP challenges in the 2020 election and since supporting last year’s bipartisan infrastructure bill stands. One challenger, Bryan Smith, has loaned his campaign nearly $330,000 to fund ads mugging Simpson.

Many of Tuesday’s costliest races took place in safe Democratic districts, where the party’s left wing is trying to expand its influence and where well-funded PACs have committed resources to the center to stop them.

In Kentucky’s 3rd congressional district, which includes Louisville, retired House Democrat John Yarmuth has endorsed Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey (D) as his successor. McGarvey entered the race after a campaign was launched by State Assemblyman Attica Scott (D), who would be the first black member of the Commonwealth Congress.

Both candidates supported liberal priorities like Medicare-for-all and legal marijuana, but McGarvey had raised far more money than Scott, spending more than $1 million while spending less than $200,000. And McGarvey benefited from the backing of Protect Our Future, a new PAC largely funded by 30-year-old cryptocurrency billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried — though McGarvey said he knew little about the group initially.

“As a candidate, it’s kind of scary,” McGarvey admitted at a forum in Louisville last week, “because we don’t know what they’re going to do, what they’re going to say, or how they’re going to do it.”

Protect Our Future spent big bucks in other primaries Tuesday, scoring its biggest boost in Oregon, where it spent at least $11 million to support pandemic preparedness researcher Carrick Flynn at a crowded Democrat field in the new 6th congressional district outside of to support Portland. A number of liberal groups have rallied behind State Rep. Andrea Salinas, along with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which has attacked the PAC for trying to prevent Oregon from electing its first Latin American member of Congress.

Outside money has also shaped the primaries in the state’s new 5th congressional district, which stretches from Salem to Bend. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a leader of the conservative Blue Dog Democrats, faces Jamie McLeod-Skinner, a liberal attorney and emergency response expert.

Four of the district’s five Democratic parties have backed McLeod-Skinner, who calls the incumbent the “Joe Manchin of Oregon” based on his endorsement of drug companies and his vote to approve a prescription drug plan from last year’s House-approved welfare spending cancel bill.

“People are really upset with his votes and the fact that he doesn’t just agree to do it,” McLeod-Skinner said in an interview last month, just before ballots for the all-mail election were sent out.

The left of the party faces another test in Pennsylvania, where the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its PAC have spent heavily to help attorney Steve Irwin in a close race with state congressman Summer Lee. The Pittsburgh-based 12th congressional district was drawn to elect a Democrat, and Irwin, a moderate who has occasionally donated to Republicans, is supported by Rep. Mike Doyle (D), who is retiring.

Lee, a Democratic Socialist who would become the first black woman to represent Pennsylvania in Congress, has emerged as a potential ally for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The publicity campaign against her has portrayed her as a disloyal Democrat who would get nowhere in Washington, an argument Sanders flew to Pittsburgh last week to refute.

In North Carolina, external spending has shaped two races for open Democratic seats — the embattled 1st congressional district and the deep-blue 4th district. In the first, liberal groups have backed former state senator Erica Smith over state senator Don Davis, with NARAL Pro-Choice America and other Smith supporters attacking Davis’ anti-abortion voting record.

AIPAC supports Davis in this race, trailing behind State Senator Valerie Foushee in the 4th Circuit.

Annie Linskey in Charlotte contributed to this report.

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