How GOP 'Flamethrower' Kathy Barnette Could Undermine Donald Trump

The sudden rise of GOP Pennsylvania Senate hopeful Kathy Barnette could show how Donald Trump's influence on the party's voters is waning, but not his MAGA brand of politics, according to experts.

In the space of a few weeks, Barnette has turned what was considered a two-horse race between the Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick into a too-close-to-call three-way tie heading into the May 17 vote.

Barnette has managed to make up significant ground in the recent polls, with bookmakers stating she is now the second-place favorite behind Oz, having previously been a rank outsider and virtually unknown even in Pennsylvania.

It appears Barnette has managed to appeal to Trump's base, which has not taken a shine to the former president's endorsed candidate in the race

A number of GOP figures and Trump supporters expressed their disdain for Trump picking Oz over concerns the celebrity heart surgeon isn't conservative enough.

In comparison, Barnette, who has expressed a number of homophobic, conspiracy theorist and anti-Muslim remarks and who claims the 2020 Election was rigged, has painted herself as a Trump-esque firebrand candidate.

Barnette also released an anti-abortion campaign video in which she revealed her mother was raped at age 11 and that the candidate was a "byproduct" of the attack.

There has been speculation that the video helped garner support from conservatives in Pennsylvania amid reports the Supreme Court is looking into overturning Roe. Wade.

Thomas Gift, founding director of University College London's Centre on U.S. Politics, described Barnette as "flamethrower" who while not expressly endorsed by Trump, has been "bent on proving her Trumpist credentials."

"If she pulls out a victory, it would be a huge upset—and evidence of the power of right-wing voters to prop up a candidate who speaks their language and emphasizes their concerns," Gift told Newsweek.

Gift said if Barnette's momentum continues and she is able to pull off a shock result, it would prove that again MAGA voters don't just "blindly follow Trump" at the ballot station.

"They prioritize a certain brand of right-wing ideology and combative political style, which Barnette embodies," Gift said.

"Make no mistake about it, though: Barnette is a flamethrower. During the primaries so far, she's gotten into a number of heated moments with other candidates, including Dr. Oz.

"Whether that flavor of politics could translate into a general election win remains to be seen. It could be a hard sell, especially along the Philadelphia Mainline and in the Pittsburgh suburbs."

Surge in the Polls

The former president himself has appeared worried by Barnette's recent surge in the polls, issuing a statement on Thursday suggesting she would never be able to defeat the "Radical Left Democrats" if chosen as the GOP Pennsylvania Senate candidate.

Trump also expressed concerns that Barnette still has not "properly explained or vetted," with little information confirmed about her personal or professional life, and questions raised about her military service.

"Dr. Oz is the only one who will be able to easily defeat the Crazed, Lunatic Democrat in Pennsylvania. A vote for anyone else in the Primary is a vote against Victory in the Fall," Trump said.

David Niven, a political science professor at the University of Cincinnati, suggested that if Barnette does pull off a shock victory in Pennsylvania, her MAGA-esque campaign would be like a "Frankenstein's monster" with Trump being the "mad scientist who dreamed all this up, but cannot control his own creation."

"The Pennsylvania race is the natural extension of a movement based on anger, conspiracy, and disdain for credentials," Niven told Newsweek. "A Barnette win would be a blow for Trump's ego, but not for his brand of politics.

"For Democrats, Barnette represents a real opportunity. Pennsylvania is a state Democrats should win, and must win, and Republicans are only helping them by advancing candidates so far outside the mainstream."

Kathy Barnette gop primary
Donald Trump said Kathy Barnette will never be able to "win the General Election against the Radical Left Democrats," following a surge in the Pennsylvania GOP primary polls. SAUL LOEB-AFP/Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images