Wednesday night's Newsmax debate for Pennsylvania's Republican Senate primary might prove pivotal in one of the nation's most hotly contested races.
All five of the leading candidates took part in the showdown moderated by Greta Van Susteren at Grove City College, taking aim at President Joe Biden, Democrats, and even each other as the May 17 election nears.
"I have the wisdom and what it takes to have a bold, loud voice in Washington," Dr. Mehmet Oz said in his closing remarks.
"The reason President [Donald] Trump endorsed me – and he gave a lot – was that he knew I would win in November."
As other candidates targeted frontrunner Oz, the retired heart surgeon did little to respond other than often invoking Trump's name.
Trump "felt that I was the most capable of doing what we have to do as a party," Oz continued.
"I am confident that if I am honored with your votes, I will be able to do exactly what he promised I would do, which is to be smart, tough, and never let you down."
A well-known TV personality, Oz received the coveted Trump endorsement that vaulted him to a lead in the polls.
During the debate, Oz took aim at Biden on his massive spending plan called Build Back Better that failed in the Senate late last year.
"The only thing Joe Biden has built back better is the Republican Party," Oz said.
"The liberals are taking over our media. They control much of government. Corporate suites are dominated by the woke ideology in our universities, as well. We've got to engage in all levels."
Despite Oz's slim lead, the race remains close, with former hedge fund CEO David McCormick considered a close second.
Repeatedly during the debate, real estate developer Jeff Bartos hit out at McCormick for having lived in Connecticut and for his significant business dealings with China and elsewhere.
Carla Sands, Trump's former ambassador to Denmark, argued she would be an experienced administration veteran pushing an America First agenda in the Senate.
Commentator Kathy Barnette shocked the audience by noting her own birth was the result of a rape, but she remains an ardent pro-life advocate.
Barnette also took first aim at the Democrats' recent politicization of the Supreme Court draft opinion on a potential overruling of Roe v. Wade on abortion.
"Whether this was a leak, or whether it was a tactical operation – we will still figure out – but one thing is clear: I am so very grateful that our nation is now having a very important conversation, and that is one of the most important conversations, that is about life," Barnette said.
Oz responded to the claim he once supported abortion rights, simply saying he now believes "life begins at conception."
Sands took aim at both polling leaders, calling Oz a "MINO, and that is MAGA in name only," and McCormick a "Mitt Romney Republican."
Sands also delivered a powerful message on foreign policy, hitting Biden on Ukraine and unwinding of "energy dominance."
"Our adversaries are serious," Sands said in her one minute on foreign policy experience. "These are serious times. They require a senator who's ready on day one."
Sands also ripped Biden administration policies limiting oil and gas production in states like Pennsylvania.
"We don't need to be buying energy from places like Russia, Venezuela, and — like Joe Biden's radical administration suggested — Iran. That's blood energy."
McCormick hit the Biden administration hard on inflation, particularly with respect to energy.
"A big part of the inflation is that rise in the cost of fuel, and what Joe Biden is done has taken us from being a net energy exporter to net energy importers in 15 short months," McCormick said.
"We need to unlock that energy that will unlock our economy as well and put inflation in check. The third thing we need to do is have pro-growth economic policies, make permanent the Trump tax cuts, and deregulate."
The Pennsylvania Senate seat to replace retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, is one of the key battlegrounds for the 2022 midterms, particularly since Biden won the state with 80,000 votes.
"There are only two states on the map that Republicans hold that Democrats won in the presidential race, and those are Pennsylvania and Wisconsin," according to Cook Political Report analyst Jessica Taylor. "Of those races, Pennsylvania, I think especially given that it's an open seat, is really the best opportunity that Democrats have to flip a seat."
The Trafalgar Group polling, which correctly projected the Ohio GOP Senate primary winner J.D. Vance in Tuesday night's election, has Oz leading the Pennsylvania primary with 23%, McCormick at 20%, Barnette 18%, Sands 11%, and Bartos at 8%.
The poll had 17% of likely Pennsylvania GOP primary voters still undecided and a margin of error of 2.99 percentage points.
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