OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
Former President Donald Trump’s endorsement may yet still mean something to Republican candidates.
His backing of Dr. Mehmet Oz, for instance, has completely changed the course of the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania as a host of GOP candidates vie for retiring Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat.
According to a Monmouth University survey released Wednesday, Oz and former hedge fund CEO David McCormack have both risen to the top of the GOP primary candidate field, though conservative pundit Kathy Barnette is close behind though she has been dramatically outspent by the other two, Just the News reports.
The university noted in a press release:
There are very different dynamics at play among the Democratic and Republican bases in Pennsylvania, as voters there prepare to nominate their respective party’s candidates for U.S. Senate. The Monmouth (“Mon-muth”) University Poll finds the Republican electorate is heavily ideological and focused on two key issues right now, but there is no consensus on which candidate should be their standard-bearer.
Democrats, on the other hand, appear to be converging on a Senate choice even though they are divided on their party’s ideological future and have a long laundry list of issues that are important to smaller groups of voters within the party. Interestingly, more Democrats say it is very important for their nominee to be a strong supporter of Joe Biden than Republicans say the same about their nominee’s support of Donald Trump. And Trump’s endorsement has not helped his chosen candidate break away from the pack.
“In the Democrats, you have an ideologically divided party that is leaning toward a progressive candidate. While in the Republicans, you have a strong ideological bent but no agreement on which candidate best fits that bill. Even Trump’s endorsement has not brought clarity to the field,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
That said, Oz remains a viable candidate nevertheless, even though many Republicans had urged the former president not to back him. And, according to Monmouth, Trump’s endorsement did matter to many of Oz’s new backers.
“Most GOP respondents said they were aware of Trump’s endorsement, and 22% said it shifted their view of Oz to a more favorable position,” Just the News reported, adding that Oz’s unfavorable rating is about double that of McCormack.
By comparison, Trump’s recent endorsement of J.D. Vance in the Ohio GOP Senate primary to keep retiring Sen. Rob Portman’s seat saw the “Hillbilly Elegy” author climb from third to first place in polling.
“I would not have told you, you know, a week ago that we were in a position to win convincingly,” Vance said in an interview last week. “I felt pretty good about the race a week ago, but now I feel very good about it.”
Also, according to Monmouth’s polling, Oz polled higher:
Media figure Dr. Mehmet Oz (20%), investment consultant David McCormick (16%), and political commentator Kathy Barnette (12%) are the only candidates in the 7-person primary field to register in double-digits – albeit barely – on the question of who is the strongest candidate to handle voters’ top concerns.
Also, according to the survey, Trump is definitely a positive 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.
“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),” the press release continued.
“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.