Pennsylvania prepares for dramatic primary

Pennsylvania has been blanketed with television ads, with the more noteworthy commercials attacking frontrunner Dr. Mehmet Oz for his arguably inconsistent views on abortion and guns.

Dr. Oz speaks at a recent campaign rally in Pennsylvania. (Dr. Oz/Twitter)

Earlier this month, I took the pulse of Ohio before a massive Senate primary, and now we move next door to a more purplish state that holds a decisive election Tuesday.

The commonwealth’s junior U.S. Senate seat is open because incumbent Republican Pat Toomey, one of the last strong fiscal conservatives, is not running for reelection.

Pennsylvania has been blanketed with television ads, with the more noteworthy commercials attacking frontrunner Dr. Mehmet Oz for his arguably inconsistent views on abortion and guns.

I recently watched the May 4 GOP debate at Grove City College and found some takeaways:

Kathy Barnette’s riveting life story stood out, and she’s since surged in the polls. The military veteran and political pundit lost a bid for U.S. House two years ago, and while many, including former President Donald Trump, question her conservative bona fides and electability, she’s endorsed by various populist personalities.

Jeff Bartos, the businessman and 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, emerged during the COVID-19 shutdowns by raising and distributing millions to save small businesses. Bartos is endorsed by much of the Keystone State’s political establishment.

West Point graduate and Gulf War veteran David McCormick is a former CEO of a large hedge fund. He also worked in the George W. Bush administration, and is endorsed by many Trump administration alumni, including Mike Pompeo, the Huckabee family, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. He’s tried to emulate Glenn Youngkin’s successful 2021 gubernatorial campaign in Virginia.

“McCormick is bright, understands finance, rich enough that he can’t be bought, has demonstrated his commitment to and love for our country by his military record, and has the common sense and appropriate personality that Senate service calls for,” a Philadelphia Republican said. “I also like a guy who, when I posed a question to him at an appearance last week, told me and the other attendees that he would favor re-instituting Trump’s energy policies and using our oil and natural gas as a weapon against Russia in the Ukraine war.”

Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon and talk show host, is backed by the likes of Sean Hannity and Trump; but that move has been problematic with both right-wing media and national Republicans like Pompeo openly opposing him. He’s defended his views on guns and abortion in recent days.

Republican polls are close with McCormick and Oz atop.

“Jeff is a lifelong Pennsylvanian who has devoted himself to serving the people of our state,” a suburban Philadelphia Independent who registered Republican to vote for Bartos said. “He is bright, caring, and sensible with great values; his 30-day fund illustrated his commitment to Main Street Pennsylvania during the pandemic, helping over 1,000 businesses stay afloat. While most candidates were living outside of Pennsylvania at the time, Jeff was doing what he always has: putting Pennsylvanians first and helping to lift them up.”

On the Democrat side, there are similar themes to the Buckeye State, with candidates caving to the radical abortion lobby. Both John Fetterman and Conor Lamb — who ran as tacitly pro-life only four years ago — now do not believe in any restrictions on abortion.

Fetterman is a former small-town mayor and the commonwealth’s current lieutenant governor, who promotes progressive causes like legal marijuana, gay rights, and a $15 per hour minimum wage. He was one of the only Pennsylvania politicians to endorse socialist Bernie Sanders’ losing presidential campaigns, and though he utters clichés like “we believe in the kind of politics that’s about standing up for people instead of catering to corporate influence,” he is not anti-Israel like Sanders. Fetterman even went as far as saying “Israel is our closest ally and friend in the region.”

Fetterman has much of organized labor backing him.

Rep. Lamb, a 37-year-old former Marine, Obama administration prosecutor, and scion of a Pennsylvania political family, tries to come across as moderate, yet maintains a perfect voting record with the failing Joe Biden agenda.

With all that’s going on across America, Lamb’s website videos are banal, as are his priorities of “protecting and expanding Medicare and Social Security [and] raising the minimum wage to $15.”

An establishmentarian, he’s endorsed by most of the Pennsylvania political class.

Malcolm Kenyatta is an openly gay state representative from Philadelphia. Born in 1990, he is fervently anti-gun, and favored by teachers unions and the abortion industry. His support has remained in the single digits.

To the surprise of some, Fetterman has surged to a large lead. This is possibly due to name recognition and fundraising, yet could be beneficial for Republicans in a state that’s not radical, though Fetterman is against expanding the Supreme Court, supports fracking, and opposes the Biden administration’s Title 42 plans.

The seat is a toss-up. Toomey won in 2016 by fewer than 100,000 votes.

Pennsylvania votes Democrat more often than Republican at the federal level; however, an overarching question is how much will Democrats’ extremism on abortion help Republicans in a state that’s 25% Catholic, or will it matter?