Posted by on November 24, 2021 8:01 am
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Dr. Oz equipped to fill void in Pennsylvania Senate race

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 21: Dr. Mehmet Oz, Professor of Surgery, Columbia University speaks onstage during the 2021 Concordia Annual Summit – Day 2 at Sheraton New York on September 21, 2021 in New York City. Leigh Vogel/Getty Images for Concordia Summi

Dr. Oz equipped to fill void in Pennsylvania Senate race

David M. Drucker November 24, 07:00 AMNovember 24, 07:00 AM

Celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz is poised to shake up the Pennsylvania Senate race, bolstered by a vast personal fortune to invest in a 2022 campaign and enviable poll numbers that suggest the Republican would be an immediate front-runner.

Oz, 61, has not decided whether to pull the trigger on a bid for the seat being relinquished by retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. But if the television personality runs, he is prepared to back the effort with millions of his own money and would begin a campaign for the GOP nomination with stratospheric ratings among key demographics, a source close to Oz revealed in an interview with the Washington Examiner.

In polling that tested Oz’s image with Pennsylvania voters, his favorable/unfavorable ratings registered 54%/12% with Fox News viewers, 49%/8% with black voters, and 56%/3% with conservative Democrats, an important constituency in the Keystone State. Oz’s name identification clocked in at 80%. Oz cultivated a following over several years, first as a medical adviser on The Oprah Winfrey Show and then, beginning a dozen years ago, on the nationally syndicated Dr. Oz Show.

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Perhaps more important to Oz’s potential to succeed in a Pennsylvania Senate race, he is on good terms with former President Donald Trump and has been friends with the former president for 15 years. Indeed, Trump appointed Oz to the President’s Council on Physical Fitness, which included among its members a 2022 Senate candidate who has already received the former president’s endorsement: Georgia Republican Herschel Walker, a businessman and former professional football player.

Oz earned medical and business degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, and his wife is a native of the commonwealth. But they moved from New Jersey to suburban Philadelphia only about a year ago, and should Oz run for Senate, he will be attacked as a “carpetbagger.” In culturally conservative pockets of central and western Pennsylvania, the charge could stick and prove significantly challenging in the GOP primary.

“Pennsylvanians, I don’t think, look favorably on someone parachuting into the state,” Bob Gleason, former chairman of the state Republican Party, said. “Right now, I think it’s Carla Sands’s race to win or lose.”

Former congressman Keith Rothfus confirmed in a brief telephone interview he is mulling a Senate bid, part of the scramble among Republicans in Pennsylvania sparked by Sean Parnell’s unexpected withdrawal from the GOP primary. “I’m taking a look at it,” he said. “I have a list of folks I’m calling and reaching out to, and I’m going to continue doing that over the next several days.” Rothfus, 59, represented a western Pennsylvania district from 2013 to 2019.

Parnell, a bestselling author and military combat veteran, had been the undisputed front-runner in the race after receiving endorsements from Trump and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. But after he quit the race Monday to deal with family issues stemming from a child custody battle with his ex-wife, attention shifted to the other candidates and prominent Republicans debated the party’s best path to victory in the midterm elections.

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Sands served as an overseas ambassador during the Trump administration; Jeff Bartos ran for lieutenant governor in 2018; Kathy Barnette, a GOP activist for Trump, is popular with a small but loyal band of grassroots conservatives. Jeffrey Brauer, a political science professor at Keystone College in northeastern Pennsylvania, differed from Gleason on the impact of Parnell’s exit from the race.

“There is no doubt that Parnell’s departure immediately boosts Bartos’s chances of winning the primary,” he said. “He now becomes the current front-runner.”

But many prominent Republicans, Trump included, appear dissatisfied with Barnette, Bartos, and Sands, fueling interest in alternative contenders like Oz — and wealthy hedge fund investor Brian McCormick. Like Oz, McCormick could self-fund a Senate campaign and happens to enjoy good relations with Trump.

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An Oz candidacy would lean on the experienced, Washington-based strategist Chris Hansen, former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for general consulting. McCormick also has prominent GOP insiders in his corner actively urging him to mount a campaign, among them Kellyanne Conway, campaign manager of Trump’s 2016 campaign and a senior adviser to the former president in the White House.

“There are definitely a lot of Republican officials in Pennsylvania wanting more candidates in the race and believe there is still a lane for a self-funder, or member of the House delegation, to jump in,” said Josh Novotney, a GOP operative in the state. “There will be at least one if not two more candidates jumping in soon with self-funding capabilities.”

© 2021 Washington Examiner

Originally appeared at Washington Examiner

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