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For Many Pennsylvania Voters, Trumpism Is Bigger Than Trump

LAUGHLINTOWN, Pa. — Michael Testa, 51, an Army veteran and handyman, drives a minivan plastered with stickers reading “Trump Won.”He recently stood in the rain and mud for hours to attend Donald Trump’s Pennsylvania rally. He calls himself a “conspiracy realist” and said he’s one of millions who believe the 2020 election was stolen from the former president.But as he sat on his front porch in Laughlintown, a small borough of Westmoreland County outside Pittsburgh that was once home to the Mellon family fortune, he was undecided about which candidate to vote for on Tuesday in Pennsylvania’s Republican primary for Senate. He has misgivings about supporting Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor Mr. Trump has endorsed.“I’m not going to be somebody who does something just because one person says so, even if that person is Trump,” Mr. Testa said.Like other Republican primaries throughout the country, the Pennsylvania Senate race is testing just how strong Mr. Trump’s grip remains on the party. But unlike other primaries this year, the Senate contest in Pennsylvania has suddenly pivoted into something else — a case study of whether the movement Mr. Trump created remains within his control.In interviews with more than two dozen Republican voters in western Pennsylvania, many echoed Mr. Testa’s ambivalence and uncertainty about Dr. Oz — despite Mr. Trump’s backing, they view him with suspicion, call him “too Hollywood” and question his ties to the state. Those Republicans, including Mr. Testa, said they were instead voting for or considering voting for Kathy Barnette, the far-right author and conservative-media commentator who has surged in the polls on a shoestring budget.In a race that could determine control of the Senate, many Republicans in the state find themselves deeply devoted to Mr. Trump yet, at the same time, less swayed by his guidance. Trumpism, as Ms. Barnette herself has put it on the campaign trail, is bigger than Trump.Many voters said they were choosing who they believed would carry out Mr. Trump’s ideals, even if they and the former president disagreed on who could best accomplish that. And interviews showed how effectively Ms. Barnette, who has never held public office, had used her life story as a poor, Black child of the South to connect with white working-class voters in western Pennsylvania. At events and in her ads, Ms. Barnette often invokes the phrase “I am you.”Many voters who said they planned to vote for Ms. Barnette struggled to remember her name and said they were supporting “that Black woman.” Those who said they were voting for her said they were unaware of or unbothered by her history of homophobic and anti-Muslim views. But her strong anti-abortion beliefs — Ms. Barnette calls herself a “byproduct of rape”— have been a key part of her appeal to white conservatives.ImageDolores Mrozinski, left, and her daughter, Janey Mrozinski, are drawn to Ms. Barnette.Credit...Jeff Swensen for The New York Times“I like what she stands for,” said Dolores Mrozinski, 83, who first watched Ms. Barnette on the Christian Television Network and was immediately impressed. “She’s no-nonsense and the real thing.”

Understand the Pennsylvania Primary Election

The crucial swing state will hold its primary on May 17, with key races for a U.S. Senate seat and the governorship.

Hard-Liners Gain: Republican voters appear to be rallying behind far-right candidates in two pivotal races, worrying both parties about what that could mean in November.G.O.P. Senate Race: Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator, is making a surprise late surge against big-spending rivals, Dr. Mehmet Oz and David McCormick.Democratic Senate Race: Representative Conor Lamb had all the makings of a front-runner. It hasn’t worked out that way.Abortion Battleground: Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states where abortion access hangs in the balance with midterm elections this year.Electability Concerns: Starting with Pennsylvania, the coming weeks will offer a window into the mood of Democratic voters who are deeply worried about a challenging midterm campaign environment.Years ago, Ms. Mrozinski and her daughter, Janey Mrozinski, a 62-year-old physical therapist, watched Dr. Oz on television and even admired him. Now, the elder Ms. Mrozinski said, “he just doesn’t seem genuine.”“I don’t even know if he really lives in Pennsylvania,” she said, referring to Dr. Oz’s long history, until recent years, of living and voting in New Jersey. “He seems more Hollywood than here and it doesn’t impress me.”Her daughter added, “He looks like he had a face lift.” On the other hand, David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive who is also running in the primary, was simply, she said, “too much, too proud of himself.”In many ways,

By: Jennifer Medina
Title: For Many Pennsylvania Voters, Trumpism Is Bigger Than Trump
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2022/05/13/us/politics/pennsylvania-gop-primary-voters.html
Published Date: Fri, 13 May 2022 21:24:17 +0000

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