Why GOP strategists are increasingly worried about the 2022 Senate race in Pennsylvania

Why GOP strategists are increasingly worried about the 2022 Senate race in Pennsylvania
Mitch McConnell // Gage Skidmore

A major bombshell occurred in Pennsylvania politics occurred when, on October 5, two-term Sen. Pat Toomey announced that he will not be seeking reelection in 2022. The arch-conservative Toomey, one of the Republicans who voted "guilty" in former President Donald Trump's second impeachment trial, obviously didn't want to deal with attacks from MAGA extremists who consider him a RINO (Republican In Name Only). And Pennsylvania Republicans are now engaged in a primary battle for the Senate seat that Toomey will be vacating in January 2023.

But according to Politico reporters Holly Otterbein and Natalie Allison, some GOP strategists fear that none of the Republicans who have jumped in the race so far have what it takes to defeat a Democratic nominee.

The contenders so have included real estate developer Jeff Bartos, Carla Sands (who was an ambassador under Trump) and frontrunner Sean Parnell, who has been accused of domestic violence. Television personality Dr. Mehmet Oz, who served on the President's Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition during the Trump years, is being mentioned as a possible candidate but hasn't formally entered the race.

Bartos, according to Allison and the Philadelphia-based Otterbein, considers Parnell "unelectable," and he isn't the only one who is saying that. A Pennsylvania-based GOP strategist, interviewed on condition of anonymity, is worried about Parnell but isn't the least bit bullish on Oz.

READ: The GOP's new 'Southern Strategy' evokes civil war and bloodshed — but it has a fatal flaw

The strategist told Politico, "I don't know a single politically involved person in Pennsylvania who's not being paid who wants to be involved in this effort…. (The) pretty much universal response has been 'LOL.' There's no one who thinks the solution to the Sean Parnell issue is Dr. Oz."

Jackie Kulback, who chairs the Cambria County Republican Committee in Pennsylvania, is supporting Bartos — as she sees him as more electable than Parnell and believes that Parnell will lose to a Democrat if he wins the GOP nomination.

Kulback told Politico, "We've got to get someone who can win. If the Republicans get this wrong, we're going to live with this for generations. Because how Pennsylvania goes is how goes the country."

Pennsylvania is a complex state politically. While Philadelphia is deeply Democratic — the city hasn't had a Republican mayor since Bernard Samuel left office in January 1952 — Central Pennsylvania is much more GOP-friendly. Veteran Democratic strategist James Carville famously characterized the Keystone State as Philly in the east, Pittsburgh in the west and Alabama in between. And whether the state swings Democrat or Republican in statewide elections has a lot to do with turnout and who actually shows up on Election Day.

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Oz, in 2007, described himself as a "moderate Republican" and cited former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and President Teddy Roosevelt as his political role models — which could hurt him with MAGA zealots who detest Schwarzenegger for being an outspoken Never Trumper. Democrats, meanwhile, would likely slam Oz for pushing dubious dietary supplements that haven't been proven effective.

Christopher Nicholas, a GOP consultant in Pennsylvania, is unimpressed with the current field of Republican Senate candidates in his state.

Nicholas told Politico, "People are still uneasy about everyone that's there. There's no 600-pound gorilla…. let alone an 800-pound gorilla."

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