What to watch for today in the Pennsylvania and North Carolina primaries

The most anticipated event so far in the 2022 primary season will unfold today in Pennsylvania, where voters from both parties will make crucial decisions in competitive races for Senate and Governor.

The results will help lighten the country’s mood: Pennsylvania, a longtime swing state, has often signaled what American voters think.

And right now, a forceful centrifuge seems to be pushing Pennsylvanians back to partisan fringes. The state once prided itself on electing center-left or center-right politicians to its highest offices. But at least on the Republican side, that story counts for little right now.

The party’s high-octane primaries for governor and Senate have become increasingly turbulent down the stretch. The main candidates support the elimination of the right to abortion; some have amplified former President Donald J. Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election; and all seek to persuade voters of their MAGA in good faith.

North Carolina is also holding primaries that will decide the fate of Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who has been plagued by scandals and made many enemies among her fellow Republicans, as well as whether Trump’s endorsement can lift a 26-year-old former football player. years old and a political rookie in a House Republican race.

This is what we are looking for:

Polls show that the Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary is statistically tied three-way between Dr. Mehmet Oz, the famous physician; David McCormick, former hedge fund executive; and Kathy Barnette, a far-right commentator who has emerged in the final days of the campaign thanks to a compelling biography and intense debate.

In one debate, Dr. Oz, who won Trump’s endorsement, plaintively asked, “Why is everyone attacking me?” Mrs. Barnette replied, “Because you are liberal.”

The Republican race, with five main candidates, has been dominated by nearly $40 million in television ads spent by the top two candidates, Oz and McCormick, and their allies. Most of their TV commercials have been bashing attacks on each other.

Ms. Barnette, with only a shoestring budget, jumped into the spotlight by emphasizing her personal story (she revealed she was born after her mother was raped at age 11, galvanizing voters against abortion) and by emerging as an alternative for Republicans who are not convinced that Dr. Oz or Mr. McCormick were genuine conservatives.

The race will test the power of Trump’s endorsement, even more so than was the case in Ohio two weeks ago, where the former president carried JD Vance, who had been third in the polls, to the finish line.

In Pennsylvania, Trump’s blessing of Dr. Oz was met with widespread pushback by pointing out that the doctor was a “Hollywood liberal” and a friend of Oprah Winfrey. At a rally Trump held in Pennsylvania 11 days ago, the mention of Oz’s name drew boos.

“MAGA does not belong to President Trump,” Ms. Barnette said in a debate. I will say it today.

The Democratic Senate primary in Pennsylvania has revealed that many Democratic voters, like their Republican counterparts, increasingly want more political fighters and reject consensus-seeking centrists.

That’s why John Fetterman, the 6-foot-8 state’s iconoclastic lieutenant governor, has had a huge lead in the polls for weeks. He has appealed to rank-and-file Democrats who want a progressive in office, as well as one who believe he will appeal to white, working-class voters. Over the weekend, he announced that he had had a stroke on Friday and that he was recovering.

Rep. Conor Lamb, who won three races in districts packed with Trump supporters, has used that as a calling card to win the support of many elected Democrats in the state, who believe he would be the most eligible in November. However, that argument has not been accepted by rank-and-file Democrats.

A third candidate, Malcolm Kenyatta, a young left-wing state legislator from Philadelphia, would be the first black and openly gay nominee if he wins.

Two big issues will overshadow Pennsylvania’s open gubernatorial race in the fall: access to the vote and the future of abortion, should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

In the Democratic primary, Josh Shapiro, the state attorney general, is running unopposed. Mr. Shapiro won multiple lawsuits brought by Trump supporters falsely alleging fraud in the 2020 election. He has said he will campaign on voting rights and protecting access to abortion, which could turn the race into a referendum. about the topic.

If Roe is struck down and abortion becomes a state-by-state issue, the Republican-led Pennsylvania legislature is expected to pass a heavily restricted bill. Shapiro has said he would veto it. All four major Republicans vying for the nomination support an abortion ban.

Doug Mastriano, the clear favorite of the GOP in the polls, was a key figure in Trump’s effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. He chartered buses for the Jan. 6 protests in Washington and has made false claims of voter fraud as a centerpiece of his bid to lead a state that will be critical to the 2024 presidential race. Trump weighed in Saturday with a belated endorsement of Mastrian.

Fearing that a Mastriano victory would put an ineligible far-right nominee on the ballot, some prominent Republicans have banded together in a Stop Mastriano effort behind Lou Barletta, a former congressman who appears second in most polls.

The other main contenders in the race are Bill McSwain, a former federal prosecutor, and Dave White, a businessman.

In North Carolina, the Republican Senate primary is the most prominent contest, though most eyes are likely to be elsewhere: Whether explosively controversial Rep. Madison Cawthorn, 26, will be re-elected to her district in the far west of the state.

The number to watch is 30: The first-place finisher in the North Carolina primary must win a plurality of more than 30 percent of the vote or face a runoff against the second-place candidate.

Mr. Cawthorn, who has seven challengers, has been in the news for all the wrong reasons: for possessing a firearm at an airport (again), for driving with a revoked license (again), and for being reprimanded for House Republican leaders for their comments suggesting lawmakers had used cocaine and organized orgies.

However, it’s unclear if these antics will allow any of his rivals, most likely state Sen. Chuck Edwards, to force a runoff. Cawthorn remains a national MAGA celebrity endorsed by Trump.

In the Senate race, for a vacant seat, Rep. Ted Budd, also backed by Trump, has made a late surge, appearing to overtake former Gov. Pat McCrory.

McCrory, whose conservative credentials include signing the infamous 2016 “bathroom bill” that targeted transgender people and sparked major backlash in his state, is no longer conservative enough for some Republicans. The anti-tax Club for Growth has dropped millions of dollars on TV attack ads, accusing him of being “a liberal phony.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee is Cheri Beasley, a former Chief Justice of North Carolina.

The power of Trump’s endorsement will also be tested in a Republican primary for North Carolina’s newest congressional district, 13, which is south of Raleigh and likely to be the state’s only competitive House seat in fall.

The former president has endorsed a former college football player, 26-year-old Bo Hines, who also has the endorsement of the Club for Growth political committee. His main opponent, Kelly Daughtry, is the daughter of a former state House Majority Leader. Many Republican officials in the state are supporting Ms. Daughtry. Sounds familiar?

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