Dr. Mehmet Oz — the Republican nominee for Pennsylvania‘s Senate race — ditched all branding related to former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement helped catapult him to success in the primary election.
David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive and Bush administration official, conceded the tight primary race to Oz, a television host and cardiologist, earlier this month after a mandatory recount began to show Oz emerging victorious.
According to a Tuesday report from Axios, Trump was a “near-ubiquitous fixture” in the Oz campaign’s advertisements, with a series of issue-centered videos about gun rights, abortion, and energy beginning with the phrase “endorsed by President Trump.” On social media, Oz’s cover photo was a banner image of himself alongside Trump, his Twitter account “mentioned Trump more than 70 times,” and his team ran Trump-centered ads on Google and Facebook.
However, according to Axios, Oz has not mentioned Trump on Twitter since May 17 — the day of the Republican primary. The cover photo now says, “Thank you, Pennsylvania” on a solo photo of the candidate, and the website no longer features a pop-up fundraiser window featuring Trump. Oz has also reportedly stopped running the Trump ads on Google and Facebook.
Axios noted that Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA) used the same tactic during his recent campaign against Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe. Rather than emphasizing Trump’s endorsement, Youngkin focused on kitchen table issues such as education and the economy.
The Oz campaign, however, has not ditched all ties to Trump. “The endorsement is the first endorsement listed on our website and we changed the banner to thank Pennsylvanians after the recount was completed,” Oz spokesperson Brittany Yanick told Axios.
Oz was the most polarizing candidate among Republicans casting their ballots in the primary race. Although he led all other contenders, 48% of voters reported a “somewhat or strongly unfavorable opinion” of the candidate in a poll from Emerson College. Republicans had a 32% unfavorable view of McCormick and a 28% unfavorable view of conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, who finished third in the election.
A USA TODAY Network and Suffolk University poll showed Pennsylvania voters favoring Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman over Oz by 46% to 37%. Fetterman, the state’s lieutenant governor, overwhelmingly defeated Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) in his party’s race, even though he suffered a stroke days before ballots were cast. Pennsylvanians simultaneously disapprove of President Joe Biden by 54% to 39%.
Pennsylvanians have a more dismal outlook on the economy compared to the 2018 midterms. The portion of voters characterizing economic conditions as “poor” quadrupled in four years — from 12% to 45%. Only 1% of voters describe the economy as “excellent.” Nevertheless, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro also leads the gubernatorial race against Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano, with 44% and 40% of the vote, respectively.
“Even with Democratic party registration dwindling in Pennsylvania, both Fetterman and Shapiro are adopting a more populist approach to midterm voters and winning independents,” Suffolk University Political Research Center Director David Paleologos remarked. “Voters say they are unhappy with the economy in Pennsylvania and President Biden’s job approval, yet these particular Democrats are threading the needle thus far.”