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About 980 votes separated Pennsylvania Republican Senate candidates Mehmet Oz and David McCormick as of Monday night, and even though their primary race will almost certainly head to a mandatory recount, the fight for every vote is already underway. And it's getting contentious.
When it became clear the May 17 primary was going down to the wire, both campaigns lawyered up. On Monday night McCormick, who is trailing by less than 0.1 percentage point, filed a lawsuit to compel Pennsylvania's 67 counties to count mail-in ballots that arrived on time but don't have the required handwritten date on the outside of the envelope. A federal appellate court ruled Friday that such undated Pennsylvania ballots should be counted, regardless of state law.
Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Oz in the primary, urged the celebrity doctor to just declare victory. Oz has so far ignored that advice, but campaign manager Casey Contres accused McCormick's legal team of "following the Democrats' playbook" with its push to count undated mail-in ballots.
The McCormick camp says it has a clear path to victory, and "with some Election Day votes and a sizable number of mail-in ballots and overseas military ballots left to count, McCormick's claims are viable," The Washington Examiner reports. "Going to court, however, presents a political risk for McCormick, at least in the court of Republican public opinion."
Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel is siding with Oz, saying on Fox News Sunday that "the RNC very much supports that ballots should not be counted without a date." The Republican Party of Pennsylvania also backed Oz's position Monday evening. The RNC and state GOP "are intervening against McCormick in his suit over undated ballots," New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman reported Monday night, citing GOP sources.
"To be clear, Dave McCormick is pursuing a legal strategy that will not yield enough votes for him to win this election but could set a dangerous legal precedent in Pennsylvania for years to come and cost the GOP general elections, including the presidency," former GOP Senate staffer Chris Hansen tweeted.
"Just to be clear, the ballots they want to throw out were all proper, legally cast votes, submitted on time," liberal commentator Ron Filipkowski tweeted separately. "These are ballots where the voters simply forgot to write the date next to their signature. The GOP wants to disenfranchise their own voters for a scrivener's error."