Why a key Pennsylvania primary race could set the tone for candidates nationwide

The race to fill the open Senate seat in Pennsylvania could be an early test of the Democrats' new messaging strategy. It's already one of the most hotly-contested elections this year. Lisa Dejardins reports.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    And the race to fill an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania could be an early test of Democrats new messaging strategy. It's already one of the most hotly contested elections this year. And just days before the primary, Republican and Democratic candidates are kicking their campaigns into high gear to turn out the party faithful. Lisa Desjardins has the story.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Look at Pennsylvania as a magnificent map of national politics right now and the rough terrain ahead in the fight for the U.S. Senate. With the word fight most prominent on the right where front runners are battling over who is most conservative.

    Republican businessman David McCormick is trying to channel Donald Trump stressing America first on things like immigration, jobs and trade.

  • David McCormick, Republican Senate Candidate, Pennsylvania:

    I'm going to fight the problems economic policies, deregulation, fair trade agenda.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But the former President sees himself in someone else.

    Another former TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose show aired nationally for over a decade. A lifelong Republican, Oz's opinions on issues like guns and abortion have changed over his years in public life.

  • Donald Trump, Former U.S. President:

    I'd like to have Dr. Oz come up and say a few words.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    In this campaign, Oz has embraced Trump's policies and one likability points from some.

  • Mehmet Oz, Republican Senate Candidate, Pennsylvania:

    We love President Trump Pennsylvania.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The two men have funneled their vast personal fortunes into an onslaught of TV ads, at least $24 million combined.

  • Woman:

    Greedy businessman McCormack cut Pittsburgh jobs.

  • Man:

    Mehmet Oz a complete and total fraud.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    The attacks at one another continued on stage.

  • Mehmet Oz:

    Dishonest Dave is added again.

  • David McCormick:

    Well, I want to say Mehmet has flip flopped on every major issue.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But as the two casts each other as opportunistic.

  • Man:

    I'd like to introduce you to Kathy Barnette.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    An opportunity opened for someone else.

  • Kathy Barnette, Republican Senate Candidate, Pennsylvania:

    Hey, guy, thank you so much for coming.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Just this month political commentator, Kathy Barnette has surged with polls showing her in a three-way race for first. Barnette is also a longtime anti-abortion activist whose personal story being born out of rape is resonating with conservatives.

  • Kathy Barnette:

    My family's value and my life. I'm very grateful for that.

    We've have people who look at the Constitution as if it's just a list of suggestions.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    On Friday, President Trump put out a statement saying she can't win, but he also praised her.

  • Woman:

    What did you think about Mr. Trump's statements?

  • Kathy Barnette:

    We know that President Trump do not mix words. I think that letter was favorable. And I look forward to working with the president.

  • Katie Meyer, WHYY Political Reporter:

    She does have room to just get this last minute momentum.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Katie Meyer covers state politics for WHYY and met us at clubhouse diner. I asked her about Barnette's chances in the fall.

  • Katie Meyer:

    I think anybody who sees somebody who's more extreme like Barnette somebody who is as tunneled, Trump said not vetted, like Barnette, they think OK, that's like a pretty easy target. However, we've seen that big totally wrong before.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Which brings us to Democrats and another unusual candidate.

    John Fetterman, Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania: Thank you for coming up.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Pennsylvania's Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman looks like a wrestler and campaigns like Bernie Sanders.

  • Man:

    John Fetterman.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Fetterman gained attention as Mayor of Braddock, a hollowed out steel town he helped revitalize, his pro-immigration, supports universal health care and legalizing marijuana. His main opponent, Congressman Connor Lamb.

    Lamb became a democratic superstar in 2018 when he flipped a previously Republican seat. He has some strong union support, but he has been out stepped and in money outmatched by Fetterman. Lamb supporters think only a moderate can win the entire state.

  • Brian Adams, Pennsylvania Voter:

    I'm more concern as to who will actually be able to win against whatever Republican candidate is presented in November.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    But Fetterman is far out front in polls, and his supporters argue his kind of Democrat of blue collar progressive is the right one for Pennsylvania.

  • Barbara Orr, Pennsylvania Voter:

    I love that he's so consistent. He doesn't shift his message and I think people really appreciate that.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Pennsylvania is one of the few swing states left. For the past few decades, voters here have sent mostly moderates to the U.S. Senate. But those days may be numbered. The primaries in this state are moving away from the middle, more right and more left. For PBS News Weekend, I'm Lisa Desjardins in McVeigh town, Pennsylvania.

  • Geoff Bennett:

    And this afternoon Democratic candidate John Fetterman announced that he had a stroke on Friday, but he says he's recovering.

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