For weeks, polls showed that the Pennsylvania GOP U.S. Senate primary was too close to call. Results from primary election day demonstrate that projection was accurate.
Though he slipped to third in some recent polls and saw former President Donald Trump endorse celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in April, hedge fund investor and U.S. Treasury Dept. official David McCormick carried a slim lead for most of the night in the primary on May 17.
In the early hours of May 18, Oz pulled ahead.
With 95 percent of the precincts reporting at 12:30 a.m., Oz received 31.2 percent of the vote (397,347) while McCormick tallied 31.1 percent (396,724) and Barnette accumulated 24.7 percent (314,828), according to Decision Desk HQ.
In Pennsylvania, an automatic recount is triggered when the difference between the leading candidates is within .5 percent. An official winner might not be known for days.
At 11:30 p.m., McCormick took the stage at his watch party in Pittsburgh as results showed he was clinging to a .2 percent lead.
“We had a pretty good day today,” McCormick said, drawing applause from the crowd. “There was a huge outpouring of support across the state. We knew it. We felt it on the ground.
“We are going to win this campaign,” he added. “Right now, tens of thousands of mail-in ballots have not been counted and will need to be counted tomorrow. There will be no resolution tonight, but we can see victory ahead.”
— Dave McCormick (@DaveMcCormickPA) May 17, 2022
Some Pennsylvania counties do not begin counting mail-in ballots until the day after the election. McCormick’s team believes it has the advantage on early votes and feels confident that it will maintain the lead and win the race.
Oz did not concede when he addressed a crowd of supporters in Newtown at 11:50 p.m.
He thanked Trump and Sean Hannity, saying he’s “like a brother to me.”
He also talked about the hope that a strong America brings to other countries.
“My parents were immigrants and saw that shining city on the hill that President Reagan talked about,” Oz said. “I am running to allow all of us to see that brilliance. We are the land of plenty and nothing can hold us back.
“We are a role model to the world. When our city on the hill is shining bright, others see it,” Oz added.
Oz wrapped up his talk by claiming there will be a “ferocious charge” and “I will be the next senator of Pennsylvania.”
The GOP winner will face Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the general election. Fetterman, who suffered a stroke on May 13 and underwent a procedure to get a pacemaker and defibrillator on the afternoon of May 17, gained 59 percent of the vote followed by U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb with 27.5 percent and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta at 9.2 with 71 percent of the precincts reporting at 10:26 p.m.
In mid-April, Trump endorsed Oz and Ohio GOP Senate candidate J.D. Vance. Oz didn’t get the bump in the polls that propelled Vance to a primary victory.
Oz led in about every poll in recent weeks, but he held a tiny advantage.
In a new Emerson College poll released on May 16, Oz had 28 percent followed by Barnette at 24 percent and McCormick with 21 percent support.
According to the survey, 15 percent were undecided.
An internal survey from the pro-McCormick super PAC Honor Pennsylvania indicated that Barnette surged over the last week, leaving McCormick at 25 percent, and Oz and Barnette deadlocked at 24 percent.
Trump called McCormick “a good person” but said he is “an insider who absolutely sold us out to China.”
McCormick, who was Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs during the George W. Bush administration, attacked Oz by calling him a liberal and criticizing his dual U.S.-Turkey citizenship. Though McCormick did not gain Trump’s endorsement, his campaign is based on Trump policies.
As Pennsylvania voters headed to the polls on the morning of May 17, McCormick appeared on Fox & Friends for an in-depth discussion about the primary.
“Pennsylvanians are zeroed in on this race because they see that the stakes are so high and so it’s understandable they’re taking their time to make a decision,” McCormick said. “I’m confident they’re going to make the right decision. And this seat is so important for Pennsylvania because to fight on all those issues of inflation and energy policy and open border, we need a conservative leader in the Senate from Pennsylvania that can fight.
“But beyond that, this race will determine whether, you know, Chuck Schumer goes packing and takes his suitcase back to New York and is done. And because of that, he will throw everything at it.
“And we need a candidate who has been he’s been battle-tested, who has had the experience to be able to prevail in a fight, who can marshal the resources, build the team, has the credibility, and has the resilience. And I think that that’s why I feel great momentum.”
McCormick added that it is important to elect a candidate who can make an impact when he or she arrives in Washington. He believes that his background as a West Point graduate, a combat veteran and paratrooper, a hedge fund executive, and a former U.S. Treasury official makes him qualified.
“Once you win, who can actually go to Washington and make a difference on day one? We’re in a crisis, and we don’t have time for on-the-job training. If you want to know what on-the-job training looks like, look at Kamala Harris. That’s on-the-job training,” McCormick said.
“We can’t have that. So we have to have somebody that can show up on day one and deal with inflation, deal with Ukraine, deal with China. And that’s my candidacy. And that’s the experience I’m running on.”
The “on-the-job training” comment appeared to be directed at Barnette, whose campaign surged in the last month.
In the primary, Oz spent $12 million of his own funds on the campaign. McCormick poured $11 million into the hotly contested race.
Barnette operated her bid to become the first Republican black female elected to the U.S. Senate on a shoestring budget after raising $1.7 million. In May, she emerged as a serious contender to Oz and McCormick, prompting a plea from Trump to Pennsylvania voters.
“Kathy Barnette will never be able to win the general election against the radical left Democrats,” Trump said in a statement. “Dr. Oz is the only one who will be able to easily defeat the crazed, lunatic Democrat in Pennsylvania. A vote for anyone else in the primary is a vote against victory in the fall!”
Barnette carries political baggage that will drag her down, Trump said, before adding that he would support her in the future when the current Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race is over.
“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.
Barnette’s personal pro-life story resonated with voters and powered her rise in the polls.
Barnette brought up Oz’s pro-choice past in a May 4 debate. She described how she is the “byproduct of a rape.”
Her ascent in the race over the last month is attributed to a powerful personal life story that includes a personal climb out of poverty and being a child conceived from rape, which has shaped her staunch pro-life stance. Barnette picked up support from conservative groups, including the well-funded Club for Growth Action super PAC.
“My mother was 11 years old when I was conceived, my father was 21,” Barnette explained in the debate. “I was not just a ‘lump of cells.’ As you can see, I’m still not just a ‘lump of cells.’ My life has value.
“It was disturbing when I saw Mehmet Oz running for this race when I have seen him on numerous occasions saying my life was nothing more than an acorn with electrical currents,” Barnette added. “I am wondering if the good doctor has since changed his position on that.”
McCormick or Oz will transition to what is projected to be a competitive race against Fetterman in the general election.
On May 15, Fetterman revealed that he suffered a stroke.
“On Friday, I wasn’t feeling well, so I went to the hospital to get checked out,” Fetterman said in a statement. “The good news is I’m feeling much better, and the doctors tell me I didn’t suffer any cognitive damage. I’m well on my way to a full recovery.”
“Our campaign isn’t slowing down one bit, and we are still on track to win this primary on Tuesday, and flip this Senate seat in November,” Fetterman said.
On primary election afternoon, the Fetterman campaign released a statement that said, “John Fetterman just completed a successful procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. The procedure began at 3:15 p.m., John was released at 5:56 p.m., and he has been given the all-clear that it was successful. He is resting at the hospital and recovering well. John continues to improve every day, and he is still on track for a full recovery.”
Fetterman tweeted a photo of himself casting an absentee emergency ballot at Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital.
Just cast my Primary Election Vote from Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital using an emergency absentee ballot. ✅ pic.twitter.com/HftIKtZG2V
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) May 17, 2022
McCormick encouraged Pennsylvania Republicans to unify, regardless of the primary outcome.
“I feel proud of the campaign we’ve run and I’m excited about what lies ahead for Pennsylvania and for me,” McCormick said in the Fox & Friends interview.
“Once we get through primary, we need to come together as conservatives to win in November,” he added. “We’re going to be fighting against a socialist agenda that is weak and woke and taking our country in a direction we won’t recognize.”
McCormick mentioned that he was asked if he is “America First” at a recent campaign stop
He responded by saying, “I’ve been ‘America First’ my whole life from the day I volunteered for West Point at 18 and served in the 82nd Airborne Division.”