RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
It is primary day in several states around the country. Voters in Pennsylvania, Idaho and North Carolina go to the polls for important elections for Senate and governor. NPR political reporter Deepa Shivaram joins us this morning to dig into some of these races. Deepa, good morning.
DEEPA SHIVARAM, BYLINE: Hey. Good morning.
MARTIN: Let's start in Pennsylvania. This is a big-deal race because it's the first Senate seat to open up in the state in a decade, right? What's the state of play right now?
SHIVARAM: This race has had a lot of twists and turns since the beginning. But right now let's focus on the three Republican candidates who are polling really closely at the top. That's Dr. Oz, the celebrity doctor who was endorsed by Trump, David McCormick, who's a CEO, and Kathy Barnette, an activist and Fox News commentator. Barnette has had a recent surge. She's a very right-wing Black woman who claims to be even more MAGA than Trump. And her rise has been somewhat surprising given how little money she's raised. Oz and McCormick, though, have been pouring millions of dollars into this race, attacking each other and trying to win over support from Trump and his supporters.
On the Democratic side, John Fetterman, who's the state's lieutenant governor, has a comfortable lead in the polls against Congressman Conor Lamb and Malcolm Kenyatta and is expected to win the Democratic primary tonight. This past weekend, though, Fetterman's campaign revealed that he was hospitalized for a stroke. And he's missed the last few days of the campaign. So whoever wins the GOP primary tonight will likely be bringing that up against Fetterman heading into November. But whatever happens tonight, this race will be important to watch because it's one of the few that Democrats have a chance at flipping in November.
MARTIN: So you note that President Trump's endorsement of some candidates in Pennsylvania is making a difference. What are some of the other races where the former president's word is affecting the race?
SHIVARAM: There's definitely a few, but another one is the governor's race in Pennsylvania. That's a big one. Just days ago, late into the game here, Trump weighed in on this race, endorsing State Senator Doug Mastriano. He's a candidate who has been peddling lies about the 2020 election, using a lot of Trump-like rhetoric. Mastriano is so right wing that Republican leaders in the state are worried he won't be able to win statewide. Some Republican candidates in that race have dropped out and backed former Congressman Lou Barletta. But Mastriano has a pretty solid lead going into tonight, especially with Trump's endorsement. And this is definitely an example where the former president's politics is still clashing with others in the party who worry it's too extremist and might not work in a state like Pennsylvania. And the likely Democratic candidate, Josh Shapiro, is already factoring in Mastriano's extreme views into his own campaign to try to galvanize Democratic voters for the midterm race in November.
MARTIN: It's interesting, these kind of interparty battles. What's it like on the Democratic side? Are there equally tight races in blue districts?
SHIVARAM: Right. You're seeing some similar challenges in a few House races with Democratic candidates where you get that moderate versus progressive matchup. There's a House race in North Carolina's 4th Congressional District that's a good example of that. So there's a state senator, Valerie Foushee, who's more moderate and is up against Durham County Commissioner Nida Allam, who has received endorsements from Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And there's similar races like that in Oregon districts as well. Midterm races are typically a test of how Americans are feeling about the current administration in the White House. And right now people aren't feeling very positive about Joe Biden and the direction of the country. So one thing to keep an eye on is how well Democratic candidates who are embracing Biden's decisions do versus those who are trying to distance themselves and carve out a different path here.
MARTIN: NPR's Deepa Shivaram, thanks so much.
SHIVARAM: Thank you.
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