GOP launches Operation Stop Barnette

Source: Politico | May 12, 2022 | Holly Otterbein and Natalie Allison

Kathy Barnette’s late surge has forced the Oz and McCormick campaigns and their allies to scramble in the final days before the Senate primary.

PHILADELPHIA — For months, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick barely laid a glove on Kathy Barnette.

There was no point.

They’d made the calculation that Pennsylvania’s closely watched GOP Senate primary was a two-man race. After all, they had the most money, the highest name ID, and a dominant position in the polls.

But in the last 48 hours, the Oz and McCormick campaigns and their allies have been suddenly forced to recalibrate as Barnette has surged to the front of the pack. In a sign of how seriously they take her rise, both men have gone on the attack against Barnette on conservative media outlets, while their allies have scrambled to disseminate opposition research and prepare anti-Barnette ads.

Even former President Donald Trump, who has endorsed Oz, decided Thursday that it was time to throw up a roadblock. In a statement, he cast doubt on her electability in the critical battleground state that could determine party control of the Senate: “Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats.”

“I think what’s happened is neither Oz nor McCormick have excited anybody,” said John Brabender, a Republican strategist who is a veteran of Pennsylvania campaigns and is not working for a candidate in the Senate primary. “They’ve spent a lot of money and people viewed it as millionaires behaving badly — they were looking for any alternative that they could find.”

Oz and McCormick weren’t the only ones caught off-guard by Barnette’s late surge. Many Republican political consultants at the state and national levels also didn’t see it coming. Though she had been slowly rising in the polls in recent weeks, the release of a Fox News survey Tuesday, showing her in a tight race with Oz and McCormick, confirmed her momentum was undeniable.


Barnette, who has been described by former Trump aides as “ultra-MAGA,” received a massive boost this week when the conservative Club for Growth super PAC — one of the top outside spending groups in Republican Senate primaries this cycle — endorsed her and revealed it would spend $2 million on TV ads supporting her.


While casting doubts about Barnette’s electability in the fall, Trump also appeared to suggest Thursday that she has a shot at winning the primary and has proven her MAGA bona fides.

“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 in the statement.


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