Trump Backs Dr. Oz in Key Senate Race

Trump Backs Dr. Oz in Key Senate Race

POLITICO previously reported leaning toward Oz, according to three people familiar with Trump’s thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Trump recently met with Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormick at Mar-a-Lago and spoke with several people about the Republican primary.

McCormick and Oz, as well as their allies, had been locked in a months-long battle over Trump’s approval. With his loyal base and his unmatched popularity with Republican voters, Trump’s decision to pick Oz could have a significant impact on the race. But Oz’s success or failure at the polls will also be closely watched as a test of Trump’s control over the party ahead of the 2024 presidential election, particularly as some of his candidates have faced challenges this year.

In Pennsylvania, Trump initially endorsed Sean Parnell for the Senate seat before Parnell backed out amid allegations of abuse by his estranged wife.

The election between Oz and McCormick was even more tense for the former president because Trumpworld is divided on the two main candidates. Some of Trump’s allies have strong views on the Pennsylvania primary, and he risks upsetting his friends by choosing Oz, just as he would have if he had endorsed McCormick.

Jim Worthington, a Republican from Pennsylvania appointed by Trump to the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition, along with Oz, told POLITICO earlier this week that he had spoken with Trump about Oz on several occasions, including most recently. recent Sunday afternoon at Mar-a-Lago.

“I can tell you that the president definitely likes Oz, for sure,” he said.

Oz and his wife, Lisa, dined with the former president and Melania Trump on March 16, a meal at Mar-a-Lago that lasted several hours, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

Three days later, while speaking to an American Freedom Tour crowd in Ft. Lauderdale, Trump brought up the Pennsylvania Senate race and mentioned the famous TV doctor.

“Does anyone like Dr. Oz?” Trump asked the crowd gathered in Florida, receiving cheers and applause.

But other Trump allies are using their platforms to criticize Oz.

Steve Bannon, a former White House chief strategist for Trump, criticized Oz on his podcast recently: “How Dr. Oz, probably the most anti-MAGA guy, and you have Fox non-stop pimping this guy and Newsmax pimp this guy? , and that’s what it is: how Dr. Oz, from New Jersey, [Turkish President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan’s friend, floating in from Jersey, how does he become a factor in a Senate race in the Pennsylvania community?

Jack Posobiec, a far-right personality who was a guest on Bannon’s show at the time, responded: “This guy wasn’t in 2020, and he certainly wasn’t in 2016. But suddenly he found his way to conversion from Damascus. , and he has been this conservative in hiding all along? Wow, I think that’s news to everyone else in the whole movement.”

As host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” Oz brought then-candidate Trump onto his show in 2016 for a medical checkup, a decision criticized by some as a political stunt and a favor to Trump, who received a largely positive response. report.

In his statement endorsing Oz, Trump said, “He even said he was in extraordinary health, which made me like him even more (although he also said I should lose a couple of pounds!).”

McCormick and Trump met at Mar-a-Lago last week for an hour and had a “very productive” meeting that touched on their fundraising, polling and announcements, according to a person familiar with their talk. Rob Gleason, a McCormick supporter and former chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, also recently met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, a source said.

Dina Powell, McCormick’s wife, served as Trump’s deputy national security adviser. McCormick also hired former Trump White House staffers Hope Hicks and Stephen Miller, and former Trump campaign adviser David Urban and Trump White House counsel Jim Schultz helped McCormick launch his Senate candidacy.

Siding with Oz are Fox News host Sean Hannity and casino mogul Steve Wynn, who both actively pushed for Trump to endorse the famous doctor, according to people familiar with their efforts. And, perhaps most notably, Melania Trump is an Oz supporter in the Senate race.

A person close to Trump, discussing the former president’s thinking on the Pennsylvania endorsement, pointed to a phrase Trump has repeated often when discussing Oz: “It’s been on TV in people’s bedrooms and living rooms for years.” .

Trump has sometimes used a variation of that phrase, emphasizing in conversation that Oz has “been in the ladies’ bedrooms” for years as they watched his daytime TV show, something Trump believes would help Oz win suburban voters.

“There’s a certain level of confidence usually associated with that,” the person said of Oz’s television career. “Something that the president intimately understands because it was key to his rise.”

Melania Trump’s endorsement of Oz “reinforces that belief and the value of those intangibles” that a celebrity like Oz has, even though McCormick “is in some ways the more impressive candidate,” according to the person.

Conservative commentator John Fredericks, a friend of Trump who served as his Virginia campaign chairman in 2016 and 2020, had the former president on his radio show Wednesday. Fredericks, who met Oz at CPAC in February and has just endorsed him, opened the interview with a question about whether Oz is a “MAGA candidate.”

“He’s a good man, too,” Trump said, describing his positive experience appearing on the Oz television show for a medical checkup during the 2016 election.

“He’s a high-quality guy, he is,” Trump continued. “I will make a decision on that.” Trump said the decision would come “maybe pretty soon.”

In an interview, Fredericks declined to provide details about the private conversations he had with Trump before his talk.

Before Trump’s announcement, Fredericks said Trump’s decision would be based on “what’s best for the country” and which candidate was more aligned with “America First” policies, before criticizing McCormick for his work as hedge fund executive and his ties to the George W. Bush administration. McCormick served as a deputy secretary in the Bush Treasury Department.

“Trump understandably views Oz’s name identification and celebrity status as positive attributes since he launched his 2016 presidential campaign in the same way,” a former Trump campaign adviser said. “The main difference, however, is that no candidate, especially one like Oz with an extensive anti-MAGA record, will be able to galvanize rank-and-file voters the way Trump has done in epic fashion.”

“President Trump’s continued popularity in Pennsylvania is undeniable, and Dave is proud to be aligned with his America First agenda,” said Jess Szymanski, a spokeswoman for McCormick.

With the primary contest still unresolved, Trump’s decision to endorse is a potential risk.

Although Oz entered the primaries with a clear lead and officially announced his candidacy a month and a half before McCormick, several polls show that the dynamics of the race have changed since then.

An early March Fox News poll had McCormick winning 24 percent and Oz 15 percent, but another recent poll found a tie.

Jim McLaughlin, McCormick’s pollster, said the campaign’s latest internal poll found the former business executive at about 25 percent and Oz at 14 percent. He also said that Oz has an unfavorable rating of 51 percent.

“Republican primary voters in Pennsylvania have totally seen it. They understand that he is not a Pennsylvania conservative,” he said. “You ask them, ‘What do you know about Mehmet Oz?’ They’re telling you he’s a Hollywood liberal.”

However, Oz’s campaign released an internal poll that showed a different result, with him at 24.8 percent and McCormick at 21.6.

Other candidates in the Republican primaries include Carla Sands, a former Trump ambassador; Kathy Barnette, conservative commentator; and Jeff Bartos, real estate developer.

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