The wait is on in Pennsylvania, where a Republican Senate primary brawl remained too close to call Wednesday.
The leading contenders, famed TV doctor Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick, are each confident they will prevail when all the votes are counted.
But a clear result could be days or even weeks away. Pennsylvania law requires an automatic recount if the margin of victory is less than half a percentage point. By midday Wednesday, with 96% of the expected ballots, Oz was ahead of McCormick by about 2,400 votes, or about two-tenths of a percentage point.
“As we look to get a better idea of the votes remaining today, we are optimistic that Dr. Oz will win,” said his campaign manager, Casey Contes, wrote in a Wednesday morning tweet.
McCormick’s team is also expressing optimism.
“Based on the number of uncounted mail-in ballots and the margin by which Dave has won them so far, that’s why we’re confident of victory,” McCormick political consultant Jeff Roe said. , tweeted shortly after midnight. “Dave is going to win this race.”
The winner will face the general election in November against Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who won his party’s nomination on Tuesday while hospitalized with a stroke. The race to succeed retired Republican Senator Pat Toomey is expected to be one of the most expensive and competitive in the country this year.
McCormick is doing better with mail-in voters than Oz, according to real-time numbers provided by the Pennsylvania secretary of state’s office. Under state law, counties could not begin counting votes submitted by mail until Tuesday morning.
In Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh and serves as McCormick’s home base, 95% of the expected votes had been tallied by noon Wednesday. But the remaining votes are unlikely to be counted for several days, according to election board officials. USB sticks from 30 constituencies were mistakenly left in voting machines overnight and now need to be collected before the results can be updated when the agency’s return board meets on Friday morning, Amie Downs, spokesperson for the Allegheny County Board of Elections, told NBC News. Voting machines are secure, Downs added.
If the unofficial statewide results remain within half a percentage point, the secretary of state has until May 26 to order a recount, which is expected to begin June 1 and end June 7.
The GOP primary has been chaotic and, at times, nasty. Oz, McCormick and their allies spent $25 million on advertising, each trying to lay claim to former President Donald Trump’s political movement. Although McCormick surrounded himself with former White House and Trump campaign advisers, Oz won Trump’s approval.
Kathy Barnette, a conservative commentator who the polls showed was a late rise to No. 1 with Oz and McCormick, seemed to acknowledge her clearer third place in a video she tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.
“Never forget what Sean Hannity did in this race,” Barnette said, referring to the Fox News host who endorsed Oz and provided a prime-time platform for the search for the opposition that has surfaced against her in the last few days. “Almost single-handedly, Sean Hannity has sown deep seeds of misinformation, outright lies, every night for the past five days, and it’s been extremely difficult to overcome, apparently. And yet more than 300,000 of got you out, you refused to be deceived and bamboozled.”
Trump, who continues to falsely claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him, posted several posts on Wednesday morning criticizing the ballot counting process in Pennsylvania.
And while Oz has urged to be patient as the remaining votes are counted, Trump is advising a much more drastic course.
“Dr. Oz should declare victory,” Trump said Wednesday on Truth Social, his social media website. “It’s much harder for them to cheat with the ballots they ‘just found’.”