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Pivotal Pennsylvania Primary: Why It Could Hold the Key to US Senate

Pennsylvania election

The Pennsylvania primary is shaping up to be a tight race that will be watched around the country. Both parties are vying for a pivotal seat that could mean control of the U.S. Senate. 

Pennsylvanians cast their votes Tuesday in what will be a nationally watched primary. The race to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has brought out numerous Republicans and Democrats trying to win over voters around the Keystone State and secure the nomination. 

"Judging by the crowd, this must be a really blue county, right? Of course not, 2 to 1 Trump! But here you are," said Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman to a crowd in Fayette County outside of Pittsburgh. He's trying to win back blue-collar voters in rural areas. Polls put Fetterman comfortably ahead of his competitors Congressman Conor Lamb and state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta heading into Tuesday.

Fetterman isn't shy about what he wants to do if he gets to D.C. He's been a staunch supporter of getting rid of the filibuster in order to pass Democratic priorities like voting rights, codifying Roe v. Wade, and gun control in a split Senate.

His blue-collar, tough guy messaging is resonating with certain voters. "I think Conor Lamb's a great guy, but we need a lion. And John Fetterman's a lion," said Erie resident Jeffrey Phillips.

Over the weekend, Fetterman was actually hospitalized after suffering a stroke. However, he says quick treatment by doctors reversed the stroke, leaving no side effects, and he's staying in the race.

While Democrats are trying to take the opportunity to flip the seat blue, Republicans are fiercely trying to defend it. 

Reality star Dr. Mehmet Oz grabbed former President Donald Trump's endorsement and the two appeared at a rally together weeks before the primary. "President Trump endorsed me because he said I was smart, tough, and will never let you down," Oz told the crowd. 

READ  Trump Endorses Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania's Crowded GOP Senate Primary

The coveted endorsement hasn't led to a huge boost in poll numbers, with Oz being criticized for past statements on abortion and gun control. He's been polling neck and neck with Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund manager who's hitting Democrats hard on record inflation.

Some Republican voters in Pennsylvania wondered why Trump picked Oz.  "I do think he's getting some bad advice. I do know Oz had him on his show when he was running, and I know he's a very loyal person. So, is that why he endorsed him? I don't know. I wish I could get a hold of him, pick up the phone and say 'what are you thinking?'" said Joe Kujawa, an Erie County Republican.

As candidates hit the homestretch, it's Kathy Barnette making the biggest run. Multiple polls show her catching up to both Oz and McCormick while being massively outspent. Although critics call Barnette extreme, her personal story as the child of a mother raped at the age of 11, could be making a difference. That combined with her outspoken faith and signs that Roe v. Wade could be overturned may have struck a chord with GOP voters. 

READ 'Grateful to God': Senate Candidate Kathy Barnette's Miraculous Story of Purpose and Value

"You probably know she's had a tough upbringing, but you know what? She loves the Lord. She loves the Constitution, and that's what we love. We love babies," said voter Cheryl Shouse. 

Barnette's surge led Trump to put out an official statement saying she couldn't win the General Election. "It sounds like the President knows what's going to happen on Tuesday. I am so excited, not just for myself but for the people of Pennsylvania, and by extension America," Barnette responded. 

Candidate Carla Sands is hoping she can overcome her poll numbers and pull out a victory Tuesday. She's touting her experience in Trump's administration as an ambassador. "I worked in the administration, nobody else in this race did. I helped President Trump get elected just like I have every single other Republican candidate since I've been an adult," she told CBN.

The race has been one of the most expensive at the top of the GOP ticket, but it's added up to almost a three-way tie heading into Tuesday. No matter who wins, expect more money to pour into Pennsylvania as both parties view it as a top prize in November's midterm election.

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