Keystone State Republican voters should think twice before pulling the lever for Kathy Barnette.
True, her insurgent campaign for the Senate has gained massive momentum before Tuesday’s primary. True, her brand of straight-talking retail politics has been in increasing vogue since Donald Trump won the White House in 2016.
But 2022 isn’t 2016, and primaries aren’t general elections. If Barnette becomes the GOP nominee, she will have to make her case to purplish Pennsylvania, which Trump only won by a hair and broke most recently for Biden. And the very factors that propelled her rise in the primary would kneecap her in the general.
Like her unexpected endorsement by the conservative Club for Growth. Or — perhaps more crucially — her alignment with likely GOP gubernatorial nominee state Sen. Doug Mastriano. Mastriano helped push Trump’s stolen election claims and has had records subpoenaed by the Jan. 6 select committee.
Add in a more traditional dark horse problem. The other two GOP contenders, TV’s Dr. Mehmet Oz (who has the coveted Trump endorsement) and ex-Bridgewater CEO David McCormick have been through the opposition-research wringer already. (The damage they’ve done each other is the big reason she has a chance.) Barnette as a late breaker has yet to face the same scrutiny — but will if she’s the nominee.
And a few ugly tidbits are already floating up, like her refusal to concede her loss in a 2020 House race and tweets implying Barack Obama was a secret Muslim.
We can’t take Dr. Oz seriously as a candidate. But McCormick has a legit resume, including stints at the Treasury Department and his tenure at Bridgewater (where he actually did the right thing and criticized founder Ray Dalio over his apologia for China’s human-rights violations).
And the Dem nominee looks very likely to be Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, an unconventional left-leaning populist who once held a shotgun on a young, unarmed black jogger.
So this race is winnable for the GOP — with the right candidate. And control of the US Senate for a desperately needed check on the disastrous Biden White House is on the line.
If Pennsylvania Republicans want to get the country back on the right track, they shouldn’t bet on a wild card.