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If former North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory is any indication, the GOP primary wounds wrought in the last several months stand a good chance of bleeding into the general election this fall.
McCrory, who lost his bid Tuesday to become the Republican nominee for the Tar Heel State's open Senate seat, declined to endorse his GOP rival, Rep. Ted Budd, the Trump endorsee.
"What I need to do is get assurances from the current leaders in my state party that I haven't been cancelled, because for the past 13 months, I've been told I'm a RINO," McCrory said, using the acronym for Republicans In Name Only.
The term, once pejoratively used to describe Republicans who weren't conservative enough, has effectively become a slur hurled at Republicans who aren't considered loyal enough to Donald Trump.
But McCrory wanted the state party to "correct that" categorization, objecting to the insinuation that he wasn't a tried-and-true conservative.
"Maybe they didn't mean that," McCrory posited, "or if they meant it, I've gotta do some reevaluation. Because they not only said I was a RINO, they said I wasn't conservative—and I consider myself a pretty conservative guy."
But McCrory wasn't simply speaking for himself. He was using himself as a stand-in for the some 25% of GOP primary voters who cast their ballots for him and who will also make or break Republicans' chances of claiming that seat in November.
"This is going to be a very close general election," McCrory noted. "So I think my party, in order to win the general election, has still got to appeal to the conservatives like me—the Ronald Reagan conservative—in order to win North Carolina.”
He challenged party leaders to come back to him and his supporters and embrace them as an "important" part of the Republican Party.
"But to do kind of a Mccarthyism within in our own party—saying some people belong and some people don't belong—man, we better correct that or we're not going to win the U.S. Senate or the White House in '24."
McCrory noted that GOP Sen. Thom Tillis won reelection last year by roughly 40,000 votes out of over 4 million cast.
"And that was with a flawed Democrat," he said of Cal Cunningham, who was dragged down in the final month of the race by a sexting scandal. "So the Republican Party is going to have to work hard here," McCrory said.
McCrory added that he wanted the Republican Majority in the Senate, but offered, "I think we're gong to have to have a little more courage in reaching out and not being so wrapped up in one individual."
And there's the rub. That one individual—otherwise known as "Individual 1" in criminal parlance—is Trump, who would much rather sacrifice the GOP Senate majority than welcome non-loyalists into a bigger tent party.
But McCrory isn't alone in his rejection of simply smoothing over intraparty ruptures in order to prevail in November. On the other end of the GOP spectrum is MAGA radical Kathy Barnette, who lost her bid Tuesday to become the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania's Senate seat. While her rivals, Trump endorsee Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick, are locked almost dead even at 31% each, Barnette still managed to commandeer some 25% of the GOP vote with her late rise to prominence in the race. It's nothing to sneeze at in a state that promises to host one of the most competitive general-election Senate contests in the country.
But Barnette is already on the record saying she doesn't intend to endorse either of her rivals, whom she has cast as MAGA posers even though Oz won Trump's endorsement.
Asked by right-wing Breitbart News Monday if she planned to back her GOP challengers, Barnette responded, “I have no intentions of supporting globalists. I believe we have ran out of room on this runway for this nation. I believe we have very little rope left to just roll the dice and we’ll see how it works on the other end."
Barnette's slash and burn continued on Wednesday as she seized on Dr. Oz's election-night shout out to Fox News' Sean Hannity for offering his advice and consultation "this entire campaign."
That admission clearly got under Barnette’s skin. "I do want to say, never forget what Sean Hannity did in this race," Barnette said in a video statement thanking her supporters. "Almost single-handedly, Sean Hannity sowed seeds of disinformation, flat-out lies, every night for the past five days. And that was just extremely hard to overcome."
By contrast, Rep. Connor Lamb of Pennsylvania, who lost the Democratic Senate primary Tuesday to Lt. Gov. John Fetterman by a roughly 33-point margin, issued an amicable statement conceding the race.
"I entered this believing PA Dems needed a real debate, and I’m proud of the campaign we gave you," Lamb tweeted Tuesday night. "Today, voters made it clear that John is their choice. I respect their decision and congratulate John on his victory."
But don't worry, folks, if you're enjoying the post-primary Republican infighting, more is surely coming after next week's GOP primary in Georgia, where Trump endorsee David Perdue appears poised to lose his effort to oust incumbent GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump still despises with a white hot hate.
Here’s McCrory’s interview—very much worth the watch since he is taking up the mantle of old-school Republicans as ideological outcasts in today’s MAGA-dominated GOP.
Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.
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Senate candidate Mehmet Oz thanked Fox News host Sean Hannity for advising him “behind the scenes,” helping to bring him to the cusp of a potential victory in Tuesday night’s primary in Pennsylvania — a revelation that further illustrates Hannity’s position as a Republican operative who leverages his media presence for political influence.
The Republican primary race could potentially go to a recount, with Oz currently ahead of former hedge fund manager Dave McCormick by a slender margin. The winner will face Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, who won his primary by a landslide. During a speech on Tuesday night, Oz first thanked his wife, his children, and his campaign staff and then called out two key political figures who endorsed him and advised him throughout the campaign: former President Donald Trump and Hannity.
MEHMET OZ (U.S SENATE CANDIDATE): And I want to thank some other individuals who are actually unbelievably close friends, made a big difference in my life, are always there at every moment. Let's start with 45, President Trump. President Trump, after he endorsed me, continued to lean in to this race in Pennsylvania. He knows all the subtleties of it. He was willing to participate with tele-town halls, which he advised that I do, it was a brilliant idea. He participated in a massive rally out in Westmoreland County. God bless you, sir, for putting so much effort into this race. I will make you proud.
I want to thank Sean Hannity. Sean is like a brother to me. When Sean punches through something, he really punches through it. He understands exactly how to make a difference, and he's been doing that this entire campaign — much of it behind the scenes, giving me advice on late night conversations — again, the kinds of things that true friends do for each other.
Hannity previously had an eerily similar role during the Trump campaign and administration, serving as the “shadow” chief of staff to the then-president and often holding late-night phone conversations in which he functioned as a sounding board for Trump’s policies.
Hannity also endorsed Oz’s Senate campaign, helping Oz launch his candidacy with a nearly ten-minute interview on his prime-time Fox show in late November. Hannity also reportedly lobbied Trump to endorse Oz, which may have made the difference if indeed Oz’s currently thin lead holds up through the vote count.
Hannity also used both his TV show and his radio show last week to attack the campaign of insurgent candidate Kathy Barnette, telling his audience that Barnette should not win in the primary due to her history of anti-Muslim and anti-LGBTQ statements. (Hannity did not acknowledge his own history of spewing similar bigotry.)
During one such segment trashing Barnette, Hannity reiterated his endorsement of Oz, saying he would “always tell you how I feel,” before interviewing Oz to continue attacking Barnette. But, while Hannity might acknowledge his candidate preference, he did not reveal that he had been advising Oz behind the scenes, nor admit his role in securing Trump’s endorsement for the candidate.
Oz’s revelation Tuesday night should also be placed in further context of how Hannity uses his Fox platform to spread misinforming Republican campaign talking points.
Previously released text messages between Hannity and then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed that Hannity took direct instructions on coordinating get-out-the-vote messaging on Election Day in 2020, and Hannity later described himself as being “at war with” the network’s purported news figures such as then-Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace over the network’s declaration that Joe Biden had won the election. (The network undermined its own decision desk’s election call nearly 600 times in just nine days after that call was made.)
The texts have also shown the extent to which Hannity wears two faces along with his two hats. On the one hand, he publicly claimed the attackers who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, were left-wing infiltrators. On the other hand, he urged Meadows during the attack to ask Trump to call off his supporters, and afterward, he worked on damage control with the White House.
Whether Oz even wins or loses in the final result is almost beside the point. Hannity’s role in elevating his candidacy and orchestrating another instance of the Trump-Fox feedback loop provides yet another example of Fox's evolution from its earlier role as a propaganda outlet on behalf of the Republican Party to a major engine of the party itself.
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.