MEYERSDALE, Pennsylvania — Unless either Dr. Mehmet Oz or David McCormick pulls out a miracle between today and Tuesday evening, just over 20% of the Republican primary electorate is going to nominate Kathy Barnette for U.S. Senate.

This would mark the first time in modern Pennsylvania Republican primary history that such a complete unknown wins with no statewide infrastructure to support her candidacy, zero money, and little scrutiny. If she succeeds, she will have upended a race between two capable candidates who, up until a week ago, seemed to be locked in a two-man contest.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate David McCormick at a campaign event with Army veteran Sean Parnell. (Salena Zito)

This would also mark the first time in Pennsylvania Republican primary history that an insurgent candidate has ever won a primary race. Just ask Pat Toomey.

In 2004, the retiring senator was a House member who came pretty darn close to upending the late Arlen Specter in a Republican primary, only to lose to him in the state's conservative central area, known as the "T."

How did Specter win? The answer is twofold. First, there were his deep connections in rural counties like this one. This was where he doled out project money and called in all of his favors. The other thing that saved Specter that year was a robust Republican state party.

Specter won, albeit by 1 percentage point, here in Somerset County.

However, it is not 2004 anymore. And this time, the insurgent is the one in the catbird seat. The once-venerated state Republican Party is a mere shadow of itself. There is no state party to rescue Oz or McCormick, because the party didn’t even have the spine to endorse in this race. And neither man has the natural political base like Specter did.

As a consequence, the party’s decision not to endorse in the governor's or Senate races has had long-reaching implications. By failing to do so, it left a ridiculous number of candidates in the race for both offices — in particular for the governor's race, where nine candidates stayed in long past their expiration date. This allowed the eccentric, far-right Doug Mastriano to suck up all of the oxygen.

In short, if Barnette wins — and everything at this moment points in that direction — she will undoubtedly run shoulder to shoulder with Mastriano. They’ve endorsed each other, they campaign together all the time, and they hold the same outsider standing — even outside of Trumpworld.

It is hard to find any pathway where either of them will win in November, even in the remarkable conditions available to Republican candidates right now.

Trump-endorsed Republican primary candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz speaks at a campaign event in Westmoreland County. (Shannon Venditti for the Washington Examiner)

So outside of the collapse of the state party, how did Republicans get here? In short, what is wrong with Pennsylvania GOP voters? Do they not want to win in November? The answer is complicated.

First, the top two candidates, Oz and McCormick, spent way too much time going negative on each other when neither man had an established base in Pennsylvania. That's how the negative attacks on each other worked.

In other words, Kathy Barnette is not winning this race — they are losing it in classic murder-suicide fashion.

Barnette’s moment came in the final debate here last week, in which she came across as accessible and likable. Sometimes, debates do matter, which is why some candidates work hard to get their opponents onstage with them. Voters looked at Barnette and said, "She doesn’t have a second home in Florida. She sounds just like me."

Within days, conservative patriot groups were elbowing each other out of the way to support her on social media and trying to take credit for the energy that shifted to her candidacy. Suddenly, if you dare to question her, you are labeled a racist, a member of the establishment, or a Democratic plant.

One grassroots voter who admitted she would be happy with either Oz or McCormick said to me of some of her fellow Republicans, “No one cares about winning in the fall, they just want to win their little battles, they have a list of grievances they feel entitled to, and damn the torpedoes.”

It frustrated her that rage-voting would hand the country two more years of Democrats in the majority.

Here is the problem with Barnette in November: She is not a coalition-builder, and you cannot win a general election without building a coalition, no matter how good the year is for your party.

Her other problem is that she is stubbornly blocking press access. That is a badge of honor for many Republican voters, but unvetted candidates have a way of self-destructing. Without scrutiny, voters have no idea what they are getting into, until it is too late.

For example, on Thursday, Barnette insisted to a reporter that she voted in Pennsylvania in 2016 for Donald Trump. Voting records show that is not the case.

She also insists she served in the military for 10 years and was accepted into officer candidate school; the documents she finally released Thursday show that she served about eight years, with no mention of OCS.

Barnette's anti-establishment bona fides will make it hard for her to work with Mitch McConnell’s people to do the things she needs to do to win — not because he isn’t willing, but because she is running against him as much as she will be running against the likely Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.

There is an outside chance that Barnette could lose. Stars rise and fall constantly in American politics. But she seems more likely to win. And between her lack of vetting and her close ties to Mastriano, Republicans stand to lose a winnable U.S. Senate race and governor's race in 2022.