TV Doc Pivots Away From Trump & His Radical Base

Life size paper cutouts of former President Donald Trump, left, and Dr. Mehmet Oz, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania stand in a booth at a campaign rally at the Westmoreland Fair Grounds in Greensburg, Pa, Friday, May 6, 2022. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

By Brett Pransky

July 7, 2022

In the final weeks of the Republican Senate Primary in Pennsylvania, GOP candidates sought only one thing: Donald Trump’s endorsement.

When Trump endorsed TV doc and very recent Pennsylvania resident Mehmet Oz, the Oz campaign responded by plastering the words “Trump endorsed” on each and every piece of campaign advertising. It quickly became impossible to find an image or a statement from the campaign that did not include the term, or include a reference to the fact that Oz had been chosen by the former president.

Then he won, and everything changed.

Since Oz’s narrow win on primary night, Trump mentions quickly diminished, and the “Endorsed by Trump” banners went away almost overnight.

A recent article in Axios highlights the shift in messaging, including the deleted Trump references on the Oz campaign website and the “stark departure from the tone of his primary ads.”

While it is somewhat normal for a candidate to moderate messaging as a primary election ends and a general election begins, this kind of hard reversal – from a campaign that was more about Trump than Oz, to one in which Trump no longer exists – is getting noticed, and straining Oz’s already shaky relationship with base voters.

That said, this is a strategy that has worked for other republicans, most notably for Glen Youngkin in Virginia, who walked the tightrope between the radical Trump base and moderate suburban voters on his way to becoming Governor in Virginia last year.

Time will tell if this latest pivot will succeed. However, for such shifts to work, they need to go unnoticed, or only slightly noticed. Oz, who has been battling credibility issues throughout his candidacy, is making this massive shift in front of an already skeptical base and an even more skeptical general electorate, and at a time when the polls have him down by as many as nine points.

Trump’s endorsement, once a life vest tossed to a flailing primary campaign, has quickly become an anchor, and it might just sink Oz and his team in the general.

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