Is this good news or bad news for Republicans in Pennsylvania? That depends on whether Keystone State voters will mind having a Senator who lives in New Jersey. Mehmet Oz, better known as “Dr. Oz” on television, officially launched his campaign for the Senate in a Washington Examiner guest column this afternoon:
The reality of our challenges has crystallized during the pandemic. Over 750,000 in the United States have died from the virus, a devastating toll for families and communities. Many of those deaths were preventable. COVID-19 became an excuse for the government and elite thinkers who controlled the means of communication to suspend debate. Dissenting opinions from leading scholars were ridiculed and canceled so their ideas could not be disseminated.
Instead, the government mandated policies that caused unnecessary suffering. The public was patronized and misled instead of empowered. We were told to lock down quietly and let those in charge take care of the rest. When we tested positive for the virus, we were also told to wait at home until our lips turned blue and we got sick enough to warrant hospitalization. To be clear, this is not a typical medical protocol. Elites with yards told those without yards to stay inside, where the virus was more likely to spread. And the arrogant, closed-minded people in charge closed our parks, shuttered our schools, shut down our businesses, and took away our freedom.
America should have been the world leader on how to beat the pandemic. Although we had some moments of brilliance, such as the gift to the world of mRNA vaccines made possible by President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, many great ideas were squashed. That’s not the America my parents came to. That’s not the one I grew up in. That’s not the one I want to leave behind.
Equally concerning, we cannot even say what we see anymore, which is a suffocating feeling. Doctors are trained to tell it like it is because you deserve to hear our best advice and make your own decisions. It’s why I have fought the establishment my whole career. In this emergency, we needed capable leaders ready to act. We didn’t get that. Sometimes, in medical emergencies, we will need to operate with swift and decisive action. Sometimes, we can use less invasive medications to correct course. Sometimes, we will use preventive health to stop problems from even emerging in the first place. We need to use all of our tools and tactics to get the job done in society, too.
We must confront those who want to change the very soul of America and reimagine it with their toxic ideology. We need to fight for the benefit of our descendants. We have fumbled the baton we’re supposed to pass to our children. And I want to pick up that baton and start racing toward our promising future.
That’s a broad approach, generically conservative but still populist enough to engage both the MAGA and establishment wings of the GOP — for now, anyway. Earlier, the Associated Press previewed Oz’s bid:
Dr. Mehmet Oz, the celebrity heart surgeon best known as the host of TV’s Dr. Oz Show, is planning to run for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat as a Republican, according to two people familiar with his plans.
Should Oz run, he would bring his unrivaled name recognition and wealth to a wide-open race that is expected to among the nation’s most competitive and could determine control of the Senate in next year’s election.
Oz — a longtime New Jersey resident — would enter a Republican field that is resetting with an influx of candidates and a new opportunity to appeal to voters loyal to former President Donald Trump, now that the candidate endorsed by Trump has just exited the race.
Oz, 61, in recent days has told associates and Republicans in Pennsylvania of his plans, according to the two people who spoke to The Associated Press. One person was told by Oz directly, while the other was briefed on a separate conversation. Both people spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations.
Rumors had swirled for a while that Oz might jump into the race. Sean Parnell’s abrupt exit from the GOP primary race after allegations of domestic abuse left Republicans without a well-known name in the contest to replace the retiring Pat Toomey. CBS Philly noted Oz’ interest on Friday, as well as a few other potential challengers for the nomination:
According to multiple Republican operatives in and outside of the Keystone State, the slate of GOP candidates could expand in coming weeks to include hedge fund executive David McCormick and daytime TV personality Dr. Mehmet Oz.
“Right now you’ve got a wide-open, fluid field in Pennsylvania,” said Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania and a CNN contributor.
Republican Sen. Pat Toomey is not running for reelection, and Democrats see the seat as one of their top pickup opportunities heading into the 2022 midterms. Without Parnell as the frontrunner for the GOP nomination, Republicans are hoping to defend a seat held by a member of their party for all but two of the last 52 years.
McCormick, a former official in the Treasury Department under President George W. Bush, is a Pennsylvania native and West Point graduate. For years he has lived in Connecticut, where his hedge fund is located, but Republicans in Pennsylvania have been trying to recruit McCormick to come back to the state.
“There has been an accelerated outreach from Republican leaders, both within Pennsylvania and nationally, as well as donors, for Dave to come into the race,” said one person close to McCormick. “The Parnell departure has clearly created an opening where he’s seriously considering it.”
That would set up a classic populist/establishment fight in the primary, especially if Oz’ notoriety and McCormick’s money squeezes out lesser-known challengers. If that does happen, Pennsylvania Republicans would be put in the odd position of having to choose which carpetbagger to nominate, though. One has to wonder just how excited those primary voters will be to choose between two men who either don’t live in their state or only returned to run for office — not to mention what general-election voters will do when the winner gets paired up against a Democrat with long ties to the state.
It’s pretty easy to see why McCormick wouldn’t bother to run in Connecticut for a statewide office as a Republican. Why wouldn’t Oz run in New Jersey? After all, Republicans nearly won a gubernatorial race against a relatively popular Democrat this month, a sign that even states as blue as the Garden State might be competitive. The easy answer is that neither of New Jersey’s Senate seats are up for election this year; Bob Menendez won’t be up for re-election until 2024, and Cory Booker won re-election last year. Oz could probably compete well enough against Menendez if he wanted to wait, since Menendez has had his strength sapped by scandal. Plus, Oz might be boosted by an anti-Biden turnout in the next presidential cycle. That would be at least as likely as Oz winning Pennsylvania next year, right?
Apparently Oz doesn’t like waiting, and doesn’t mind running in another state. Republicans are pretty desperate to hold Toomey’s spot in the upper chamber, and unless they can recruit a native celebrity or self-funder, Oz and McCormick will look like better bets than any obscure state legislators in Pennsylvania. That may end up being a mistake, but maybe a more prominent figure from within the state will step up soon and moot the project.
If so, such a candidate had better act quickly. The AP reported that Oz would announce his intentions tonight on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, but Oz apparently couldn’t wait here either. Now that Oz has (quasi-)officially jumped into the primary, the crowd-out effect will begin immediately.