Recount Bound: PA Republican Senate Race Between Dr. Oz and Hedge Fund Boss Too Close to Call

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Stephanie Keith/Getty
Stephanie Keith/Getty

The Republican Senate primary in Pennsylvania was too close to call late Tuesday night, with television doctor Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund manager David McCormick almost in a dead heat and currently within the 0.5 percent margin that would trigger the state’s automatic recount rule.

As of midnight on Tuesday, Oz had clawed out a lead of just a few hundred votes over McCormick, with MAGA die-hard Kathy Barnette about seven points behind in third.

For weeks, Oz and McCormick polled neck and neck, despite the boost Oz received from former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. But down the stretch, Oz had to fend off the upstart Barnette, who exploited her right-wing bona fides to mount a last-minute charge that siphoned enough skeptical Trump voters away from Oz to play a spoiler role.

Trump Supporters Keep Booing Dr. Oz Despite Endorsement

Barnette’s surge, in fact, likely kept McCormick in it, as conservative voters who would normally be swayed by Trump’s endorsement flocked to her side.

With the race functionally in a dead heat as Tuesday turned into Wednesday, McCormick was the first to send his camp home.

“Unfortunately we’re not going to have a resolution tonight,” he told supporters, citing thousands of mail-in ballots that will be counted on Wednesday. Those mail-in ballots were ultimately Trump’s achilles heel in Pennsylvania during the 2020 election, and they could hurt Oz and Trump again, though it was Oz whose election numbers seemed to be going in the right direction. Still, the hedge fund honcho projected confidence, assuring voters that “we can see victory ahead.”

Oz appeared a few minutes later, praising his political benefactor Trump, and acknowledging that the race was headed for a recount.

“When all the votes are tallied, I am confident we will win,” Oz said. “But when it’s this close, what else would you expect?”

An Oz win would be a triumph for Trump, who is now holding his breath after notching a major victory two weeks earlier with J.D. Vance’s come-from-behind win in the Ohio Senate primary. But both Oz and Vance suffered from antipathy among the Trump base all the way through election day, losing a large chunk of the MAGA vote despite his endorsement.

MAGA World Melts Down as ‘Ultra-MAGA’ Barnette Blows Up in Pennsylvania

Oz and McCormick both stepped into a MAGA vacuum left after Trump-backed Sean Parnell’s exit, pursued by child support issues and domestic battery allegations. Neither candidate fully won that community over, though it wasn’t for lack of trying.

In all, the Oz and McCormick camps spent tens of millions of dollars on attack ads, CNBC reported, some of them misleading, as each scrambled to prove the other was the true MAGA fraud—McCormick hitting Oz as a “Hollywood liberal,” and Oz painting McCormick as a corporatist China “ally.”

Neither focused on Barnette, however, who slipped through the cracks to run in a comfortable third, likely making the difference in the nailbiter.

Still, it’s difficult to gauge the Trump effect. He was riding high after Ohio, but last week saw a stinging defeat of his anointed gubernatorial candidate in Nebraska—a megadonor whom eight women had accused of sexual assault. And Pennsylvania, where Trumpworld figures split their support, doesn’t appear to be a ringing referendum either way, no matter who edges out the win in the end.

McCormick, who is married to Trump’s former deputy national security adviser Dina Powell, didn’t win Trump’s blessing, but he did get muscle from some top figures in Trump’s orbit. Kellyanne Conway and Sarah Huckabee Sanders both campaigned for McCormick, and he landed endorsements from former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). McCormick had also sweetened his campaign staff with Trump whisperers Stephen Miller, Cliff Sims, and Hope Hicks, a unique move that still failed to appeal to the former president. (Miller dropped him when Trump chose Oz.)

Dr. Oz’s PA Senate Rival Sure Was ‘Woke’ While He Was a CEO

While Oz may still pull out the nomination, the close vote tally shows the Trump base is prepared to turn its back on its leader.

To that end, some of Trump’s closest allies circled the wagons to push back against Barnette’s surprise surge. Republican influencers warned that her candidacy would spell doom for the GOP in the general election. She also attracted odd, late-game rebukes from Fox News stalwart Sean Hannity and Newsmax’s Greg Kelly, who trounced her for Islamophobic remarks, among other things.

Even Trump weighed in, releasing a statement last week that claimed Barnette would lose in the general election because of “many things ​in her past which have not been properly explained or vetted.”

Despite those efforts, a significant slice of the MAGA base—lukewarm on the top two contenders—deprioritized their loyalty to Trump and turned to Barnette, giving her roughly 25 percent of the vote.

It’s unclear when an expected recount would wrap up. But the ultimate winner will go on to face Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman in the general election for the Senate seat. Fetterman easily won his primary Tuesday night, and a recount was welcome news for him, as his ultimate opponent will now spend even more time and money trying to defeat their Republican opponent.

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