Dr Mehmet Oz is wasting no time letting people know of his victory in the first leg of Pennsylvania’s GOPSenate primary: The battle for Donald Trump’s favour.
A new ad released by the candidate this week contains a short clip of Mr Trump’s recent remarks to a cheering North Carolina rally crowd during which he confirmed his endorsement of the celebrity TV doctor.
Dr Oz is one of several Republicans running for the GOP’s nomination to the US Senate in Pennsylvania; he also faces one other candidate who vied for Mr Trump’s blessing, David McCormick, who many high-profile supporters of Mr Trump were hoping would actually receive the endorsement.
In the half-minute ad released this week, Dr Oz reminds voters of his Trump-backed credentials before immediately pivoting to trashing Mr McCormick, who describes the ad as a “liberal”, “pro-Biden”, “Wall Street Insider”.
“Trump knows who the real conservative is that’s going to shake up Washington,” declares the ad’s voiceover.
A representative for Dr Oz’s campaign confirmed to NBCnews that the ad would receive up to $1m in funding and would air across Pennsylvania TV channels. The state’s primary election is set for May 17, a little more than a month away.
One adviser to the TV-doctor-turned-candidate noted to NBC however that the total spent on this ad in particular could change and would be based on how much coverage Mr Trump’s endorsement gets in Pennsylvania media beyond the campaign’s efforts to publicize it.
“Of all the things I’m worried about, one of them is not whether Pennsylvania Republicans know about the Trump endorsement,” the adviser said to NBCnews.
Mr Trump’s endorsement resulted in an eruption of dismay from some of his highest-profile supporters on social media; his rejection of Mr McCormick in particular was cited by some as evidence that the former president, who himself hosted The Apprentice for years, he was choosing the daytime TV veteran Oz over a more qualified candidate or stronger conservative.
In response to Mr Trump’s remarks over the weekend, some Trump supporters worked to highlight past episodes of Dr Oz’s show and comments that could be politically damaging in a GOP primary, including on the issues of acceptance for transgender children and abortion.
One congressman who was snubbed by the former president and unendorsed after asking Mr Trump’s supporters to “move on” from false claims about the 2020 election, Mo Brooks, even accused those around Mr Trump of hoodwinking their boss.
“This is happening because Trump’s surrounded himself by staff who are on [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell’s payroll & hostile to the MAGA agenda,” the congressman concluded, adding: “Everybody telling Trump who to endorse in primaries works for The Swamp.”
The state’s open Senate seat, a result of Sen Pat Toomey’s retirement, is seen as a major stepping stone for whichever party will end up in control of the upper chamber next year. The Senate is currently split 50-50 and in Democratic control due to the tiebreaking vote of Vice President Kamala Harris, and as a result a Democratic pickup of Mr Toomey’s seat would be a major blow to GOP efforts to establish a majority.
Whoever wins the Republican primary next month will go on to face a Democratic challenger in November; Currently, Lt Gov John Fetterman appears to hold a commanding polling lead over the Democratic primary field.