Did you see the Kentucky Derby last Saturday?
It reminds me of the present state of the race for the Republican nomination to be U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) May 8, 2022
As of today, it’s Kathy Barnette making a late surge and charging to the front against the perceived leaders in Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick. Whether the final result will be roses in the winners’ circle for Barnette is yet to be seen.
In the PoliticsPA moving average of 13 polls, Oz and McCormick are tied at 18.4 percent, while Barnette is seven back at 13.1. But the latest polls from Trafalgar Group and Fox News show a much different story. Trafalgar places Barnette in second place just 1.3 percentage points behind Oz, while Fox has her three points back of the celebrity doctor and one behind the former hedge fund CEO.
The race has triggered new scrutiny about the three leaders. For Barnette, the state and national media has finally picked up on her story. For Oz, it is answering to Trump World as to this new contender. For McCormick, the opening could be there for him to slide between Trump’s candidate and the strong MAGA candidate to ride to victory.
After receiving little consideration for the better part of the campaign, Barnette’s rise in the polls has brought new attention to her background, her story, and her positions.
The 50-year-old conservative commentator is a veteran, an author, a wife and a mom to two children. Her book – Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: Being Black and Conservative in America – gives her opinions as to why liberal policies have failed the Black community and will continue to as Democrats’ embrace the progressive wing of the party.
Her story is compelling. She grew up on a pig farm in the Deep South in a home with no insulation, no running water, an outhouse in the back and a well on the side, according to her bio.
She often says in her stump speech.,“when I say poor, we couldn’t afford the other ‘O’; we were just ‘po’.”
Barnette went on to become the first in her family to graduate from college and also earned a master’s degree. She served 10 years in the Army National Guard before moving into the financial services industry. Barnette was a critic of former president Barack Obama and became a regular contributor to Fox News.
She has also told her story as a “byproduct” of rape, stating she was 11 years old when she was conceived by her 21-year-old father. She says this explains her strict anti-abortion views.
Barnette first ran for political office in 2020 against Madeleine Dean for the 4th U.S. Congressional District seat but was easily defeated by 19 points (59.53 to 40.47).
She went searching for fraud in the 2020 election which led to meetings between Barnette’s team and state lawmakers as they undertook a massive election overhaul. It helped stir the frenzy for a new, partisan election investigation in Pennsylvania.
Barnette is also looking to break through a glass ceiling, as a Black woman has never before been nominated by Pennsylvania Republicans for a non-judicial statewide office. And her non-stop travel around the Commonwealth has made her much more recognizable as a rising star in the MAGA movement.
But her meteoric rise in the polls from 8.8 percent in mid-April to 23 percent in the final week has also gotten the attention of the state Republican party, as well as the national GOP.
They are concerned that she cannot win in November, thereby jeopardizing the Republicans’ chances of taking back the Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said Republicans missed good chances to win the majority in 2010 or 2012 because they nominated candidates who talked about things like “legitimate rape” or had to publicly assure voters they weren’t witches. Barnette has already indicated that she is hesitant about even backing McConnell for Leader.
The Republican machine has been out in force over the past few days, speaking out against Barnette. Negative articles have appeared in Breitbart and the Washington Examiner. Sean Hannity has spoken against her on his nightly Fox News show.
Barnette responded via Twitter. “The establishment will do anything to hold on to their power. There is no trick too dirty and no lie too big. Remember, this is what they think of us.”
And now the Club for Growth has stepped in to have Barnette’s back. Formerly in the Trump camp, the group announced a $1.9 million ad buy for her in PA in the final days. It’s not a small amount, as Barnette has spent just $160,000 on TV since launching her campaign last April. Her deep-pocketed opponents have combined to spend about $53 million over the air.
Books will be written about the 2022 U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania. And with Barnette’s surge in the polls, the final chapter has yet to be written.