Former President Donald Trump issued a statement on Thursday urging Pennsylvania Republicans to support his choice for Senate, television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, as rival Kathy Barnette climbs the Republican primary polls.
Barnette, a conservative commentator, has begun to gain traction in polls as the May 17 primary approaches. In a recent ad campaign, titled "It wasn't a choice. It was a life," Barnette said her mother was raped when she was just 11 years old and that Barnette is the result of her mother rejecting abortion under horrific circumstances. The ad struck a chord with anti-abortion Republican primary voters, especially as a recent leak from the Supreme Court suggests the court may repeal its Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide. She was recently endorsed by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List’s candidate fund PAC.
PENNSYLVANIA REPUBLICANS DON'T WANT ELECTION SKEPTIC TO WIN GUBERNATORIAL NOD
But Barnette also has a history of inflammatory remarks, including tweets critics said were Islamophobic, such as one claiming former President Barack Obama is Muslim. Barnette also refused to concede her failed 2020 congressional bid, as Trump claimed without evidence that Pennsylvania was among the states with a rigged election.
Despite Barnette’s description of herself as an “America First” candidate, Trump said voters should choose Oz, arguing Barnette “will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats.”
“She has many things in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted, but if she is able to do so, she will have a wonderful future in the Republican Party — and I will be behind her all the way,” Trump said. “Dr. Oz is the only one who will be able to easily defeat the Crazed, Lunatic Democrat in Pennsylvania. A vote for anyone else in the Primary is a vote against Victory in the Fall!”
Polls of the race in its final days show a three-way race between Oz, Barnette, and businessman David McCormick. Barnette’s surge changed the dynamics of what many expected to come down to a two-way race between McCormick and Oz. But the war of words between the two camps created a path for Barnette to emerge.
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In a bid to stop Barnette’s rise, some of her critics have pointed to her comments about unrest in black communities caused by “white racism,” which they view as off-putting to some conservative voters.
But Barnette has some Republican defenders, too. Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst told CNN on Thursday that Barnette is "extraordinary" and quipped that some of those who are already in the Senate should have been more fully vetted.
Sen. Joni Ernst defends Kathy Barnette amid criticism from right amid her rise in #pasen GOP primary. Calls her "extraordinary" and dismissed criticism that she's not vetted.— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 12, 2022
"Look around the Senate," she told me. "I see a lot of people that I think should have been vetted.”