August 3, 2022
The Senate Republicans’ campaign arm is privately sounding the alarm about physician Mehmet Oz’s bid for the Senate in the critical battleground of Pennsylvania, while telling donors that the party still has a path to winning the majority without the state.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee raised concerns about Oz’s lackluster polling and fundraising on at least three separate occasions in recent weeks, multiple sources have informed Politico.
On a donor call last week that focused on Senate races throughout the country, NRSC officials discussed Oz’s poor performance in polls, including his high unfavorability ratings, said a person on the call.
“It was an alarm bell,” the person said, adding that Oz’s poor image among voters is “really freaking everybody out.”
On the call, NRSC officials sought to calm nerves and assure financial backers that Republicans could still take back the Senate majority even without an Oz victory. The GOP only needs to unseat one Democrat this fall in order to win the Senate, which is currently split 50-50.
But Republicans also must defend other crucial swing states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina, while trying to flip the likes of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire. Failing to hold onto retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey’s seat in Pennsylvania would be a major blow to the party.
The NRSC officials on the call “brought to everyone’s attention that there’s definitely a path to winning the Senate even if Oz loses, and that seemed to be a very big concern on the call—is that Oz just has not hit his stride as a candidate,” the person on the call last week said. “The viewpoint was it’s more important to reallocate money to seats that we feel we can win.”
Oz has been consistently trailing Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman in public polls, including, most dramatically, by 11 percentage points in a Fox News survey released this week. Oz’s challenges come despite his opponent’s own troubles, as well as Republicans’ favorable political environment across the nation. In May, Fetterman suffered a stroke. He has not held a public event since then, and though he recently said he is 100% able to run, it’s not yet clear how vigorously he will be able to campaign.
During a separate call with donors in mid-July, while discussing Oz’s anemic fundraising and poor polling performance, an NRSC official again worked to ease the minds of contributors and argued that Republicans could win back the Senate without Pennsylvania if necessary.
In a statement to Politico, NRSC spokesperson Chris Hartline maintained that the committee is committed to the Pennsylvania race. After the story published, Hartline disputed comments attributed to NRSC staff, saying “any implication that we don’t have full confidence in the Oz campaign and our chances of winning PA is false.”
“Dr. Oz has been campaigning around the state talking to voters about their struggles dealing with Joe Biden and John Fetterman’s failed agenda while Fetterman hasn’t been seen in public in three months,” Hartline said in an earlier statement. “The NRSC is supporting Oz’s campaign in whatever ways we can, as we do with all Republican Senate campaigns, and we look forward to a big win in November.”
In a statement, Oz’s campaign also touted its work with the NRSC.
Research contact: @politico