The Fight for Trump’s Admiration: Pennsylvania Senate Election


Sarah Silbiger-Pool/Getty Images


The 2022 Pennsylvania Senate election will be the most contentious this election cycle. 


On October 5th 2020, Pat Toomey, one of the two current Senators from Pennsylvania, announced his retirement. Pat Toomey was first elected in 2010, defeating longtime liberal Republican Senator Arlen Specter, first in the Republican primary and then in the general election, after Specter’s attempt to run with the Democratic party to retain his longtime hold on the Senate seat. Toomey had been a longtime critic of Specter, a man who, especially in his later years, seemed very out of step with the party he claimed to belong to. Toomey was seen as much more conservative than his predecessor. 


Although Trump’s presence on the ballot alongside Toomey in 2016 definitely did increase Republican turnout, the Senator did not transform into one of Trump’s cheerleaders like much of the rest of the Republican conference. The culmination of his critiques of Trump came on February 13th, 2021 when he voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial after the January 6th Insurrection.


Despite Toomey’s critiques, Donald Trump’s hold on the Republican party has not waned, and many of the candidates fighting for the Republican nomination are courting his support. At first, Sean Parnell, a former Army ranger and recipient of a Purple Heart award, was the front-runner in the Republican primary due to his endorsement from the former President. However, Parnell’s campaign came to an abrupt end after his estranged wife accused him of spousal and child abuse and the ruling was made public. Since then, multiple candidates have hopped into the race.


One of which is Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has a major advantage when it comes to name recognition: he has been a television personality since 2003. Despite his advantage in “star power”, he has quite a few issues that could weigh him down. Throughout his nineteen years in television, Oz has promoted multiple alternative medicine treatments without any medical research being done, which has garnered him much criticism. Other challenges he faces in gaining Republican support are his lack of political experience or his past comments on the benefits of Obamacare. Even though the TV doctor is controversial, he still has name recognition and money on his side and seems to be a favorite at this point in the Republican primary. 


Another likely front-runner for the Republican nomination is David McCormick, a hedge fund executive and former Under-Secretary of the Treasury for the Bush administration. He has received the endorsement of former favorite in the race, Sean Parnell, along with Senator Ted Cruz, a big name in Republican politics. Like Oz, he also has money to spend on his political ambitions, but in the past, has taken some positions that will be hard to avoid as the race goes on. McCormick’s past comments on China while serving in the Bush administration have sparked much criticism among Republicans and, despite them being the mainstream at the time, will be a weak spot for the hedge fund executive.


While both McCormick and Oz spend millions attacking the other in campaign ads, Lower Merion resident and real estate developer Jeff Bartos has attacked both candidates for living out-of-state for many years. Due to the fierce battle between McCormick and Oz, it is also possible that Bartos could come out the victor. 


On the Democratic side, Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and Representative Connor Lamb both are battling it out for the nomination. Despite Connor Lamb’s contentious victory in his bid to represent Pennsylvania’s 17th district in 2018, Fetterman definitely has the upperhand in statewide politics, which can be seen in his large lead in the polls. Lamb, seen as a more moderate Democrat, might ultimately be able to edge out Fetterman, regarded as strikingly liberal, as Lamb’s ideology may appeal more to voters in the swing state. 


Despite it not yet being clear who will be the candidates for either of the two major parties, it is quite clear that this election will, very likely, determine the balance in the United States Senate.