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Bedford, Pennsylvania (CNN)When Mehmet Oz was vying for the GOP Senate nomination in Pennsylvania, his argument was simple: He could do better than any other Republican in the populous and politically moderate counties around Philadelphia in a general election.

The argument -- along with an endorsement from former President Donald Trump -- helped him narrowly win the primary.
But as the nominee, Oz faces a new dilemma: Motivating the commonwealth's most conservative voters.In Pennsylvania's rural, conservative stretches, areas that overwhelmingly voted for Trump in 2020, Oz is somewhat of an afterthought. Many conservative voters in some of these rural counties told CNN they plan to vote for the celebrity doctor. But few were energized by Oz's campaign and the overwhelming reason they plan to back him is their opposition to the Democratic nominee, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman.
    Fetterman commits to debating Oz in Pennsylvania two weeks before Election DayIt's an issue Oz faced during the primary when he was challenged on the right by commentator Kathy Barnette and others, and keeping the conservative base motivated will be crucial to his general election chances.
      "Oz was Trump's candidate, he's not our candidate," said Ned Frear, a voter in Bedford County, which the former President won with about 83% of the vote in 2020.Read MoreFrear is a member of a group of retired veterans who meet at the same Route 220 diner to drink coffee and talk politics each week. Oz stopped at the diner back in February -- and narrowly won the country in the May primary. Still, Frear and others are largely unmotivated by the GOP nominee. "People in Bedford County are probably going to hold their noses and vote for him," Frear said, "because Fetterman is a dead loss as a candidate."
        Clay Buckingham, another retired veteran, agreed: "That's my feeling about Oz. I'm sorry that I'm going to have to vote for him, but I'd rather see him as senator than see Fetterman.""I voted for Kathy Barnette in the primary," added Doug Braendel, another member of the veteran group. "She was my favorite candidate, but so be it. This the candidate, so I've got to go with him." A vote against FettermanFor many of these voters, the reason to vote for Oz is Fetterman, a candidate they view as antithetical to their conservative views.The Democratic nominee has tried to make inroads with rural voters. He has hosted events over the past month in counties such as Indiana and Venango, both of which Trump carried with around 70% of the vote in 2020. And he made an April visit to Bedford, where he pushed the need to raise the minimum wage and stressed not ignoring rural counties."Today is about connecting with voters and letting them know that they are not just taken for granted or they're not just like, 'It's a red county, why do we care?'" Fetterman said about a month before he had a stroke that kept him off the campaign trail for two months and has loomed over much of his race against Oz.Fetterman's campaign believes his path to victory involves keeping Republican margins down in counties like Bedford, while running up his vote totals in urban and suburban areas.Sprint to the midterms sets off on unsettled political terrainAnd the Democrat could be aided in that effort by the lack of enthusiasm for Oz from the GOP base. A recent CBS News/YouGov Battleground Tracker survey found Oz supporters were far less enthusiastic about his campaign than Fetterman supporters were about the Democrat's effort. Just 36% of likely Oz voters said they were "very enthusiastic" about voting for the Republican, while 64% of registered Republicans said they wished someone else had been nominated, according to the poll. In contrast, 63% of likely Fetterman voters said they were "very enthusiastic" about backing him, while 77% of registered Democrats said they were "glad he was nominated."In counties like Bedford and nearby Somerset, however, the polarization of the country is felt clearer than ever -- it is the antipathy for Fetterman, and the fact he is a Democrat, that is driving out Republicans for Oz."Obviously, he's our candidate of choice now, so we need to back him because red is better than blue," said Terri Mitchell, a voter in Somerset County, which Oz lost to former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick in the Republican primary.Guy Berkebile, the chair of the Somerset County Republican Party, acknowledged the same: "Some of them, it took a little time," he said of Republicans who harbored apprehensions about Oz. "But they're realizing that my best option is to be vote for Dr. Oz."Berkebile hosted Oz at his company, Guy Chemical, earlier this year. He said that there were plenty of local voters who had doubts about the television doctor at the time."We're a very Christian-based, conservative county. They were somewhat hesitant on Dr. Oz at first. They weren't sold on his Second Amendment stance, a lot of pro-lifers here, they weren't sold on if he was pro-life or not," Berkebile said, before adding, "Voting for Fetterman is not an option."Brittany Yanick, a spokeswoman for the Oz campaign, said the campaign was confident of holding the reddest counties in the state because many of those areas "rely on our energy sector as an economic driver," while also criticizing Fetterman's past stance on fracking. "Pennsylvania needs a strong leader who will stand up for American values and help heal this country, not make it worse," Yanick said.During his unsuccessful 2016 run for the Senate, Fetterman expressed support for a moratorium on fracking in Pennsylvania "until we get an extraction tax, and the strictest enviro regulations in this country." He currently does not support a fracking ban and has taken a more nuanced approach about the transition to clean energy.A boost from MastrianoOz could get some help in his bid to consolidate the Republican base from GOP gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano, a far-right state senator who upset more establishment candidates in the primary. Mastriano has been a leading voice advancing Trump's false claims of 2020 election fraud, and mainstream Republicans have expressed doubts about his ability to win the general election.Polls have consistently shown Mastriano trailing Democratic gubernatorial nominee Josh Shapiro, including the recent CBS News/YouGov survey that gave Shapiro a double-digit lead.But people like Gary Smith, the chair of the Constitutional Republicans of Western Pennsylvania, believe Mastriano's supporters are so loyal to him, they will undoubtedly turn out to vote in November and, while there, will likely hold their noses and vote for Oz.How a Pennsylvania state senator helped fuel Trumps election lies"Mastriano is so strong that he is going to pull Oz along on his coattails," said Smith, whose group consists of some of the most conservative voters around Jefferson County, which Trump won with 79% of the vote in 2020.Many in Smith's group supported Barnette in the primary -- and Jefferson was one of the few counties she won in May. But Oz visited the area after his primary win, and Smith said the GOP nominee met with the group and "cleared some concerns up" and "has given us some assurances on pro-life, Second Amendment, things of that nature."
          Smith said that even if some in his group still harbor concerns about Oz, "they are going to suck it up and put their big girl and big boy pants on" and vote for him in November."Our philosophy is that even if Oz was liberal compared to us, he is an ultra-conservative compared to Fetterman," Smith said. "So, I guess in some ways, politics is relative."

          News Source: CNN

          Tags: they weren’t they weren’t campaign conservative voters the democratic nominee ’t sold the democratic nominee gubernatorial nominee the chair general election second amendment former president and vote for him in pennsylvania somerset county the gop nominee retired veteran in pennsylvania supporters were the republican kathy barnette the vote rural counties state senator registered for fetterman our candidate the campaign that even if the democrat doubts this country rural voters fetterman they plan a candidate which trump better some compared in november to vote on fracking the country to back him

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          ‘Depraved’: Rick Scott’s NRSC slammed over fundraiser asking GOP voters ‘where do you want to send illegal immigrants next?’

          U.S. Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) and his NRSC are once again under fire, this time for sending fundraising emails to GOP voters asking, “where do you want Republicans to send illegal immigrants next?” The multiple-choice answers include “Barack Obama’s House,” “The White House,” and “San Francisco.”

          Sen. Scott is the embattled head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the official fundraising arm of the Senate GOP caucus. Recently he has been highly criticized by Republicans wondering why the NRSC’s funding of critical Republican senate campaigns has been so poor. Earlier this month a New York Times headline read: “How a Record Cash Haul Vanished for Senate Republicans.”

          The NRSC email, posted to social media by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger, falsely claim the 50 Venezuelan immigrants flown to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, possibly unlawfully according to at least one lawsuit, are “illegal.” They had applied for asylum and were in the country legally.

          READ MORE: Republican Sen. Rick Scott continues to distance himself from his own tax hike plan

          “Democrats and their corrupt partners in the mainstream media just don’t get it,” the defensive email, titled, “OFFICIAL CORRESPONDENCE,” begins. “Republican Governors like Greg Abbott from Texas and Ron DeSantis from Florida showed coastal elite millionaires in Martha’s Vineyard what life is like on our country’s southern border – and they WERE NOT HAPPY.”

          That too is false — there are few “coastal elite millionaires in Martha’s Vineyard” in late September, and most of the area’s residents were angered by what some legal experts are accusing DeSantis of: possible kidnapping.

          “Biden’s BORDER CRISIS is only getting worse – and he REFUSES to do anything about it,” Scott’s email continues. DEADLY drugs, like fentanyl, are flowing into our country UNCHECKED – and Americans are dying at UNPRECEDENTED rates from overdoses. It’s sad – and PREVENTABLE.”

          The email does not mention the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has seized 10,071 pounds of fentanyl this year already, according to The Arizona Republic. Nor does it explain how flying 50 asylum-seeking immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard would stop fentanyl from entering the U.S.

          READ MORE: Rick Scott tells CPAC Democrats’ policies are 'evil,' the 'militant left' is the 'enemy' and the 'greatest danger we’ve ever faced'

          The Cato Institute, a right wing think tank, just last week reported “fentanyl is overwhelmingly smuggled by U.S. citizens almost entirely for U.S. citizen consumers.” But it also revealed that “60 percent of Republicans believe, ‘Most of the fentanyl entering the U.S. is smuggled in by unauthorized migrants crossing the border illegally.'”

          Governor DeSantis is being investigated by a Texas sheriff and sued by a Boston-based legal firm representing some of the Venezuelan immigrants. There are calls for the DOJ to open an investigation as well.

          NBC News on Thursday reported the “air charter company Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration hired for his migrant-moving program has contributed big money to some top allies of the governor and was once legally represented by Rep. Matt Gaetz and his former partner, who is now Florida’s ‘public safety czar’ in charge of immigration policy.”

          Reports say DeSantis has already paid more than $1.5 million in taxpayer funds on the possibly unlawful “stunt” to that “air charter company.”

          Anger over Senator Scott’s NRSC fundraising email was strong on social media.

          “Fascists,” tweeted Justin Hendrix, cofounder and CEO of the nonprofit Tech Policy Press.

          “The Senate Republicans, whom respectable donors and conservative elites still consider it just fine to support, are raising money by embracing the exploitation of ‘illegal immigrants’ (who in fact aren’t illegal). Team Normal is now simply the wingman for Team Demagogue,” wrote veteran journalist and former Republican turned Never-Trumper and Democrat Bill Kristol.

          “How is this legal? This can not possibly be legal,” said former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega.

          “They are inciting hatred, xenophobia and violence. They are morally bankrupt, and are not fit to hold power,” warned U.S. Rep Sean Casten (D-IL).

          “Andrew Jackson wants his bullshit back,” tweeted law professor and political scientist Anthony Michael Kreis, referring to the late American President responsible for the forced, brutal, violent, and deadly “removal” of Native Americans from their ancestral homelands.

          “They’ve made human trafficking a central policy plank,” noted Media Matters for America senior researcher Jason Campbell.

          “Liberal anger at the Martha’s Vineyard stunt wasn’t because the people were MIGRANTS, it was because they were PEOPLE—and jerking people around for a political stunt is despicable,” explained attorney Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy director at the American Immigration Council. “That the right can’t understand this is a sign of how dehumanization has become a norm for some.”

          “Online fundraising off human trafficking of people seeking asylum. Quite a party they’ve got there,” noted Democratic strategist and former Clinton campaign official Jesse Ferguson.

          “Dehumanization and elimination as a fundraising tactic. Another reminder that this horror is what the MAGA base wants from their leaders,” warned Melissa Ryan, a consultant on combatting disinformation and extremism.

          Jim Swift, senior editor at The Bulwark tweeted, “the cruelty is the point.”

          Public affairs strategist Murshed Zaheed warns, “Republicans in the Trump era are going to operate like monstrous, inhumane ghouls. They are not going to stop until the national Democrats effectively counterattack them over it (ie go after DeSantis for potential criminal liabilities) instead of cowering in silence.”

          READ MORE: Rick Scott slammed for criticizing Joe Biden's staycation while tweeting from a luxury yacht in Italy

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