Larry Mitko voted for Donald Trump in 2016. But the Republican from Beaver County in western Pennsylvania says he has no plans to back his party’s nominee for Senate, Dr. Mehmet Oz _ “no way, no how.”
Mitko doesn’t feel like he knows the celebrity heart surgeon, who only narrowly won his May primary with Trump’s backing. Instead, Mitko plans to vote for Oz’s Democratic rival, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a name he’s been familiar with since Fetterman’s days as mayor of nearby Braddock.
“Dr. Oz hasn’t showed me one thing to get me to vote for him,” he said. “I won’t vote for someone I don’t know.”
Mitko’s thinking underscores the political challenges facing Trump and the rest of the Republican Party as the former president was shifting to general election mode with a rally Saturday night in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, the first of the fall campaign.
While Trump’s endorsed picks won many Republican primaries this summer, many of the candidates he backed were inexperienced and polarizing figures now struggling in their November races. That’s putting Senate control _ once assumed to be a lock for Republicans _ on the line.
Among those candidates are Oz in Pennsylvania, author JD Vance in Ohio, venture capitalist Blake Masters in Arizona and former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia.
“Republicans have now nominated a number of candidates who’ve never run for office before for very high-profile Senate races,” said veteran Republican pollster Whit Ayres. While he isn’t writing his party’s chances off just yet, he said, “It’s a much more difficult endeavor than a candidate who had won several difficult political races before.”
The stakes are particularly high for Trump as he lays the groundwork for an expected 2024 presidential run amid a series of escalating legal challenges, including the FBI’s recent seizure of classified documents from his Florida home. Investigators also continue to probe his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
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