NEWTOWN, PA – It’s too close to call in Pennsylvania’s jam-packed, combative, and extremely expensive GOP Senate primary.
With Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick virtually deadlocked, both candidates acknowledged that a winner wouldn’t be determined on Tuesday night.
“We’re not going to have a result tonight,” Oz, the cardiac surgeon, author and well-known celebrity physician, told supporters at his primary night event in Bucks County, in Philadelphia’s northern suburbs.
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Oz, who until the launch of his Senate campaign late last year was host of TV’s popular “Dr. Oz Show,” predicted that “after the votes are tallied, I am confident that we will win. We are making a ferocious charge.”
With the two candidates virtually tied as Tuesday turned into Wednesday, McCormick told supporters at his gathering in Pittsburgh that “we’re not going to have resolution tonight, but we can see the path ahead. We can see victory.”
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McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, West Point graduate, Gulf War combat veteran and Treasury Department official in former President George W. Bush’s administration, vowed that “we’re going to win this campaign.”
But with the margin currently within the 0.5% that triggers an automatic recount, it may be awhile before a winner is determined.
Even though former President Donald Trump wasn’t on the ballot, thanks to his full-court press during the closing days of the campaign on behalf of Oz, he was a key factor in the race. His vocal support for Oz was likely instrumental in easing fears of many on the Right who were concerned about Oz’s conservative credentials.
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Oz made a point to thank Trump first during his speech.
“Let’s start with 45 – President Trump,” Oz said to cheers. “President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean into this race in Pennsylvania…. God bless you sir for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.”
Veteran and conservative political commentator Kathy Barnette, the Trumpiest of the Republican candidates who surged in public opinion surveys in recent weeks, stood in third place.
Either McCormick or Oz will face off against Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who easily won the Democratic nomination, in the fight to succeed retiring GOP Sen. Pat Toomey in a crucial battleground state. The race is one of a handful across the country that will likely decide if Republicans win back the Senate majority in November’s midterm elections.
The primary is proving another test of Trump’s immense sway over the GOP. Sixteen months removed from the White House, the former president remains the most popular and influential politician in the Republican Party as he plays a kingmaker’s role in this year’s primaries and repeatedly flirts with another presidential run in 2024.
Trump was a winner in Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial primary, as state Sen. Doug Mastriano bested a crowded field of contenders. Mastriano was already the polling front-runner when the former president endorsed him on Saturday.
Mastriano worked unsuccessfully to try to overturn Trump’s narrow 2020 loss in Pennsylvania to now-President Biden and was outside the U.S. Capitol when right-wing extremists aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory stormed it on Jan. 6, 2021. Mastriano has also continued to support Trump’s unproven claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” due to “massive voter fraud” and continued to back the former president’s efforts to repeatedly re-litigate his election loss.
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Trump was also a big winner in North Carolina’s Republican Senate primary – in another crucial race in a general election battleground where the GOP’s defending an open seat.
Rep. Ted Budd easily won the nomination, besting former Gov. Pat McCrory and former Rep. Mark Walker. Trump endorsed Budd nearly a year ago, but the congressman was unable to leverage the former president’s endorsement to boost his poll numbers and fundraising figures. Trump held a rally in North Carolina for Budd in early April, and in recent weeks the congressman surged ahead of his rivals.
“Earning President Trump’s support helped me earn the support of those….working families across North Carolina, and I greatly appreciate it,” Budd said in a statement.
Trump’s endorsement of Bo Hines helped the former college football player win a contested GOP primary in North Carolina’s 13th Congressional District.
Trump’s clout couldn’t pull controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorne over the top in the Republican primary in North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District, however. Even with Trump’s backing in the final days heading into the primary, Cawthorne – who’s made plenty of enemies in the GOP in his short year and a half on Capitol Hill – came up short to state Sen. Chuck Edwards, who enjoyed the backing of many of the party’s establishment.
In Idaho, far-right Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin handily lost her bid to oust incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little. Trump endorsed McGeachin last autumn, but did little to actively support her.
That wasn’t the case in Pennsylvania, where Trump traveled to the state a week and a half ago to hold a rally with Oz. He also starred in Oz’s closing campaign commercial, recorded robo-calls for the candidate, and also headlined two tele-rallies for Oz in the four days leading up to the primary.
Trump called into Oz’s closing rally on primary eve, stressing that Oz is “never, ever going to let you down. He’s a strong guy, smart gentleman… He’s going to be a great senator.”
Trump scored a big victory two weeks ago in Ohio’s jam-packed and combustible Republican Senate primary, when the candidate he endorsed – former hedge fund executive and best-selling author JD Vance – edged the rest of the field. And a week later, Trump-backed Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia topped fellow Republican Rep. David McKinley in a primary battle between two incumbents.
However, on the same night, Charles Herbster – the candidate Trump endorsed and for whom Trump held a rally in Nebraska’s GOP gubernatorial primary – lost, becoming the first of the candidates backed by the former president this year to go down to defeat.
“President Trump’s endorsement is a boost that can be harnessed effectively by effective candidates who can communicate with the base,” longtime Republican consultant Ryan Williams told Fox News. “At the same time it’s not a silver bullet. It’s not something that will guarantee you a victory in a primary.”
Williams, a veteran of numerous Republican presidential and statewide campaigns, emphasized that “Dr. Oz is a first-time candidate who never really had any connection with the base of the party and was a bit of a tortured fit for the MAGA mold.”
Williams noted that the verdict’s still out whether “Trump’s endorsement can be used to overcome that.”