OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, who won the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, a must-have seat for Republicans trying to regain control of the chamber in November, has purged all branding that was linked to former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement no doubt helped him win his primary race last month.
David McCormick, a former hedge fund executive and official in the George W. Bush administration, conceded the extremely tight primary race to Oz, a television host and cardiologist, earlier this month after a mandatory recount began the former host had won.
“Today I called Mehmet Oz to congratulate him on his victory,” McCormick said to a crowd one afternoon earlier this month.
“It’s now clear to me with the recount now largely complete that we have a nominee,” he said at a campaign party that was held at a Pittsburgh hotel. “Tonight is really about all us coming together.”
According to a Tuesday report from Axios, Trump was a “near-ubiquitous fixture” in the Oz campaign’s advertisements. The campaign materials included several issue-centered videos about gun rights, abortion, and energy, all beginning with the phrase “endorsed by President Trump.”
Meanwhile, on social media, Oz featured a cover photo with him alongside Trump. And his Twitter account “mentioned Trump more than 70 times,” while his campaign team ran Trump-centered ads on Google and Facebook.
The Daily Wire adds:
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.
Many Republicans and conservative commentators thought that Trump went way out on a limb to support Oz, but the former president remained unfazed and held fast to his endorsement.
In May, a Monmouth University survey found that Trump’s backing of Oz changed the dynamics of the race.
“Dr. Oz, who has been endorsed by Trump, is seen as the most stalwart backer of the former president. Overall, 54% call Oz a strong supporter of Trump versus 20% who say he is not a particularly strong supporter. Opinion is more divided on the Trumpian loyalties of McCormick (30% strong to 23% not strong),” a press release from the university noted.
“Most GOP voters are aware of Trump’s endorsement in this race. While 69% say this has not changed their opinion of Oz, 22% say it does make them feel more favorably toward him compared with 8% who feel less favorable,” the release adds.
The survey also found that Trump was definitely a factor in the race:
A majority of Republican primary voters (54%) have a very favorable opinion of former President Trump. By comparison, fewer Democrats feel the same about Biden (44%). Just over a third of Republicans (37%) say it is very important to nominate a U.S. Senate candidate who is a strong supporter of Trump.