TV personality Dr. Oz has jumped into a key Pennsylvania Senate race as a Republican, creating plenty of buzz and raising questions about his conservative bona fides and whether he will help or hurt the GOP in 2022.
For now, Republican senators appear to be cautiously embracing the celebrity doctor’s name recognition as a potential strength in the midterms, Politico reports.
GOP cautiously embrace TV doc
According to The Daily Wire, Oz is running for the seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, an anti-Trump moderate. The election is critical to Republicans’ hopes of winning back the Senate next year.
The GOP primary race is fluid, with Donald Trump’s endorsement looming largely. The former president’s original pick, Sean Parnell, dropped out after losing a custody battle, Politico notes.
Some Republicans see Oz’s celebrity as a potential advantage, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) calling him “very competitive,” and Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) calling him “obviously intelligent” with a “clean grasp of the issues,” according to Politico. “Many first-time candidates succeed,” Kennedy remarked.
Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley was more reserved, calling Oz “a big name” but adding, “I don’t know what effect it will have on the race yet.”
While Trump has yet to make an endorsement, Politico’s Playbook reports that he sees parallels between himself and the TV doctor and thinks Oz can win the primary.
Conservative credentials questioned
Oz, who moved to Pennsylvania in 2020 from New Jersey, could face charges of carpetbagging as well as attacks on his conservative credentials from the right.
The heart surgeon has a history of donating to Democrats including John Kerry, The Daily Wire notes, and he says he is taking campaign advice from Oprah Winfrey, a Democrat who severed ties with Trump after the former reality TV star — also a past supporter of Democrats — entered the political arena.
For his part, Oz is making public health and the response to coronavirus a big part of his campaign pitch, naturally. According to Politico, the TV doctor says he wants to “put America first” and has criticized coronavirus lockdowns and mandates that are being pushed on Americans by “arrogant, closed-minded” people.
Other Republican candidates in the race include Jeff Bartos and Carla Sands, Trump’s ambassador to Denmark, Politico notes. Hedge fund manager David McCormick, whose wife served in the Trump administration, is reportedly expected to enter the race soon.
The Democratic candidates include Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb and Lieutenant Gov. John Fetterman, according to Politico.