The Pennsylvania state Republican Party decided against endorsing a candidate in the packed primary race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), and will instead allow would-be nominees to compete among themselves.
The state organization made the decision after a vote held in Lancaster showed that party officials opposed giving an endorsement to any of the contenders, despite early leads among party activists for real estate developer Jeff Bartos.
Bartos has performed well in straw polls of state activists, but has struggled to raise funding and increase his name recognition among voters. In a statement to Politico, Bartos’s campaign manager denounced “out-of-state pretenders” who have begun to crowd the race.
“These straw polls have been the only votes cast in this election—and the results are clear,” Bartos’s campaign manager stated. “Republicans prefer an actual Pennsylvanian, an actual conservative, to slick TV ads from out-of-state pretenders.”
Another primary contender is David McCormick, a West Point graduate and former Treasury Department official under President George W. Bush. McCormick’s wife, Dina Powell, served as U.S. deputy national security adviser under Trump between 2017 and 2018.
Rob Gleason, a former chairman of the Pennsylvania GOP who accurately predicted that Donald Trump would carry the state in the 2016 presidential election, has thrown his support behind McCormick.
“[McCormick] is the one. He is the guy that will win in a general,” Gleason predicted during an interview.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, a well-known television personality, also is seeking the nomination, with a strong focus on issues related to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
In a Nov. 30, 2021, Washington Examiner article explaining why he was running, Oz wrote: “Over 750,000 in the United States have died from the virus, a devastating toll for families and communities. Many of those deaths were preventable.
“COVID-19 became an excuse for the government and elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication to suspend debate. Dissenting opinions from leading scholars were ridiculed and canceled so their ideas could not be disseminated.”
“America should have been the world leader on how to beat the pandemic,” Oz wrote. “Although we had some moments of brilliance … many great ideas were squashed. That’s not the America my parents came to. That’s not the one I grew up in. That’s not the one I want to leave behind.”
Toomey is one of several Republican members of the U.S. Senate who has announced that he will not seek reelection ahead of a Senate race that is expected to be tough for Republicans.
Under the Constitution, senatorial elections are staggered over the course of six years, and every two years, one-third of the Senate goes up for reelection. In 2022, 34 senators will be up for reelection: 14 Democrats and 20 Republicans.
In addition, several Democrats up for reelection this year sit in safe states such as California, New York, and Hawaii. These seats, where Democrats usually win by double-digit margins, are unlikely to see a major shift.
By the same token, many Republican senators also hail from red states that Democrats are unlikely to flip.
Still, Republicans may face a steeper challenge in retaking control of the Senate amid the series of retirements that are planned for 2022.
The crowded race to replace Toomey is likely to thin out as the primary gets closer, particularly after Trump decides whom he will endorse. Polls have shown that Trump remains a major influence among Republicans, many of whom still consider him the de facto leader of the GOP.
The nominee will also face a tough general battle in the purple state, which Biden carried by extremely narrow margins in 2020.
Nevertheless, Republicans have some reason for optimism.
Despite Biden’s thin 1.17 percent victory over Trump in the crucial state, Democrats faced significant losses at a state level. Republican candidates won two-thirds of state seats, and Republicans held onto the state Legislature by comfortable margins.
Republicans also hope that dissatisfaction with Biden, whose first year in the Oval Office has been marked by increasing fuel prices, skyrocketing inflation, and a controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan, will help to solidify their prospects in the increasingly center-right state.
Former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement is coveted among many would-be lawmakers, has yet to give an endorsement to any of the candidates trying to succeed Toomey.
During the 2020 election, Trump and Toomey clashed over the integrity of Pennsylvania’s election results. Trump and his allies noted that there were many statistical inconsistencies in the most important swing-state elections that threw the results of the election into doubt.
Pennsylvania, one of the most crucial swing states to win, received a great deal of scrutiny, particularly in the blue strongholds of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where there were charges of foul play.
While Trump sought to have the election investigated and audited for potential fraud, Toomey contended that the election was entirely secure.
“I rise to defend the right of my citizens, my constituents, to vote in the presidential election,” Toomey said in a Jan. 6, 2021, speech on the Senate floor, when lawmakers voted to certify the results of the 2020 election despite ongoing controversies about its integrity.
“Even if Congress did have the constitutional responsibility to judge the worthiness of a state’s election process, which it does not, rejecting Pennsylvania’s electoral votes would still be wildly out of proportion to the purported offenses and very damaging to our republic.”
However, the majority of congressional Republicans from Pennsylvania weren’t optimistic about their state’s electoral integrity.
In the House, eight of Pennsylvania’s nine Republican representatives voted to block Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes over continued concerns about fraud; only Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a moderate who helped to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, voted with Democrats to advance the electoral votes.
Still, concerns over election integrity continue among a wide swath of voters. According to a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports, 68 percent of Republicans, 41 percent of independents, and more than one in four Democrats don’t think that Biden won the 2020 election fairly.
Given the issue’s particular importance in Pennsylvania, it could be one of the best motivations for the GOP base to turn out to vote.
Bartos has publicly stated that he thinks Biden won the 2020 election fairly.
“Joe Biden won the 2020 election,” Bartos said in a statement to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
For Bartos, the decision by the Republican committee not to endorse any primary candidate was a tough blow.