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EXCLUSIVE: Kathy Barnette says the reason for her surge in the latest polls in the crowded, combative and extremely expensive Republican Senate primary in battleground Pennsylvania is simple.
“We have simply ran a much better race than my opponents,” the veteran and conservative political commentator said in an interview Wednesday morning with Fox News Digital.
A Fox News poll conducted May 3-7 and released on Tuesday is the latest public opinion survey to indicate that Barnette’s support among likely GOP primary voters in Pennsylvania has jumped in recent weeks, putting her into a virtual tie with front-runners Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick in the contest to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The Keystone state race is one of a handful across the country that will likely determine if the GOP wins back the Senate majority in November’s midterm elections.
“I earnestly believe if the people of Pennsylvania knew they had a better option, they would take it and the polls are showing just that,” Barnette emphasized.
Oz, the cardiac surgeon, author and well-known celebrity physician who until the launch of his Senate campaign late last year was host of TV’s popular “Dr. Oz Show,” stands at 22% in the Fox News poll. 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, registers at 20% in the survey, with Barnette at 19%. Nineteen percent are supporting other candidates, and 18% are undecided ahead of next Tuesday’s primary in Pennsylvania.
The Oz and McCormick campaigns and outside super PACs backing the two contenders have spent tens of millions of dollars to run TV, digital and radio ads attacking each other over their conservative credentials and over key issues since the beginning of the year.
McCormick has slammed Oz as a “RINO,” and in his latest ad spotlights comments Oz made in 2019 where he said he had concerns over an Alabama measure that would have led to a near total ban on abortion. The spot charges that Oz is “pro-abortion.”
A new ad by Oz attacks McCormick for investments in China made by the hedge fund behemoth he steered until stepping down to run for the Senate. The commercial uses a clip of Trump from last week’s rally charging McCormick as a “liberal Wall Street Republican” and “a candidate of special interests and the Washington establishment.”
Without the resources available to Oz and McCormick, Barnette by comparison has spent a miniscule amount to run ads.
She touted, “I’ve been driving over 1,500 miles a week, going all across the commonwealth. I’ve spent a tremendous amount of time with the voters here. People really feel unnerved.”
And she said her message is getting out, as witnessed by the latest polls. Barnette emphasized that voters “now know that they have a better option. They don’t have to hold their noses and settle this time.”
The major candidates in the race – which also includes Jeff Bartos, a real estate developer, philanthropist and 2018 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, and Carla Sands, a real estate executive and major Republican donor who served as ambassador to Denmark during the Trump administration – made pitches to land the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who, nearly 16 months removed from the White House, remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP.
Senate candidate Mehmet Oz, accompanied by former President Donald Trump, speaks at a campaign rally in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Trump weighed in on the race last month, endorsing Oz and holding a rally last Friday in western Pennsylvania.
Both Oz and McCormick, who have close ties to the former president and who have plenty of Trump White House and campaign veterans working or supporting their campaigns, made in-person pitches to the former president for his support. But Barnette told Fox News Digital she didn’t get a chance to meet with Trump before his endorsement in the race.
Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick campaigns in Danville, Pennsylvania, on April 20, 2022.
“I’m very grateful for what President Trump has done when he was in office. I certainly believe his policies are superior to the policies of Biden. And yet, he’s not Jesus. He gets to be wrong, and I believe he’s wrong on this endorsement and I believe Pennsylvanians, the people who live here, recognize that and that’s what’s being reflected in the polls,” she emphasized.
Barnette, who was convincingly defeated two years ago in her bid for a congressional seat in Philadelphia’s suburbs, has a compelling story that seems to be connecting with voters. She spotlights that she grew up “on a pig farm in Alabama. No insulation. No running water.” And Barnette, the daughter of a single mother, revealed at a recent debate that she was conceived in rape.
Also helping Barnette may be that she and state Sen. Doug Mastriano, the front-runner for Pennsylvania’s GOP gubernatorial nomination, endorsed each other and have joined forces on the campaign trail.
Mastriano aimed to try and help overturn Trump’s 2020 loss to now President Biden, and was at the U.S. Capitol when it was stormed on Jan. 6, 2021, by right-wing extremists aiming to disrupt congressional certification of Biden’s Electoral College victory.
Barnette has supported Trump’s unproven claims that the 2020 election was “stolen” due to “massive voter fraud.” And she agrees with the former president’s efforts to repeatedly relitigate his election loss.
In the Senate primary, while McCormick and Oz have spent tens of millions of dollars to run ads and to build their campaigns, Barnette’s knocked her rivals, arguing that there are some within the GOP “who forget the people. And when they talk about the grassroots, it’s just kind of like a box to check. And it’s always about the money.”
She acknowledged that “money is certainly important,” but highlighted that “I’ve spent less than $2 million over the course of 12 months.”
And pointing to the millions Oz and McCormick have spent, she noted that “they haven’t been able to get out of the low 20s. That’s a reckless investment.”
But Barnette’s bare-bones campaign is getting some last minute outside help from a group with deep pockets.
Republican Senate candidate Kathy Barnette of Pennsylvania stars in a new commercial by the outside group Club for Growth, which endorsed her a week ahead of the May 17 primary. (Club for Growth Action)
The Club for Growth, the pro-business and anti-tax group that’s a major spender in Republican primaries, just endorsed Barnette and on Wednesday announced that it has dished out $2 million to run an ad statewide in Pennsylvania that highlights the candidate’s biography.
And earlier this week, Barnette landed the endorsement of the Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List), a leading anti-abortion outside group.
Barnette’s been criticized by some Republicans as too extreme to win a statewide general election in a purple state like Pennsylvania, and for being an untested open book.
But Barnette insists that “there are no bones that are going to fall out of my closet.”