Barnette’s moment came in the final debate here last week, in which she came across as accessible and likable. Sometimes, debates do matter, which is why some candidates work hard to get their opponents onstage with them. Voters looked at Barnette and said, “She doesn’t have a second home in Florida. She sounds just like me.”
Within days, conservative patriot groups were elbowing each other out of the way to support her on social media and trying to take credit for the energy that shifted to her candidacy. Suddenly, if you dare to question her, you are labeled a racist, a member of the establishment, or a Democratic plant.
One grassroots voter who admitted she would be happy with either Oz or McCormick said to me of some of her fellow Republicans, “No one cares about winning in the fall, they just want to win their little battles, they have a list of grievances they feel entitled to, and damn the torpedoes.”
It frustrated her that rage-voting would hand the country two more years of Democrats in the majority.
Here is the problem with Barnette in November: She is not a coalition-builder, and you cannot win a general election without building a coalition, no matter how good the year is for your party.