PHILADELPHIA — The GOP establishment is feeling down on Dr. oz.
The Senate Republicans campaign arm is silently sounding the alarm over physician Mehmet Oz’s Senate bid on Pennsylvania’s critical battlefield, telling donors the party still has a way to win the majority without the state.
The National Republican Senatorial Commission has expressed concern about Oz’s lackluster polls and fundraising on at least three separate occasions in recent weeks, multiple sources told POLITICO.
During a donor call last week that focused on Senate races across the country, NRSC officials discussed Oz’s poor performance in polls, including his high unfavorable ratings, one person on the call said.
“It was an alarm bell,” the person said, adding that Oz’s bad image among voters “really scares everyone.”
During the call, NRSC officials tried to calm nerves and assure funders that Republicans could still take back the Senate majority even without an Oz win. The GOP only needs to evict one Democrat this fall to win the Senate, which is currently split 50-50.
But the Republicans must also defend other crucial swing states like Wisconsin and North Carolina as they try to overthrow Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. Failure to retain the seat of outgoing Republican Senator Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania would be a major blow to the party.
The NRSC officials on the call “brought to everyone’s attention that there is definitely a way to win the Senate even if Oz loses, and that seemed to be a very big concern on the call — is that Oz is just running out of time as a candidate.” has not achieved,” the person on the phone said last week. “The view was that it’s more important to reallocate money to seats that we think we can win.”
Oz has consistently followed Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman in public polls, including, most dramatically, by 11 percentage points in a TBEN News poll released this week. Oz’s challenges come despite his opponent’s troubles and the favorable political climate from Republicans across the country. In May, Fetterman suffered a stroke. He has not held a public event since then, and although he recently said he is 100 percent capable of running, it is not yet clear how vigorously he will be able to campaign.
In a separate conversation with donors in mid-July, while discussing Oz’s anemic fundraising and poor poll performance, an NRSC official again tried to calm donors’ minds, arguing that Republicans could win back the Senate without Pennsylvania if necessary.
“We have a path with Pennsylvania, and don’t worry, we have a path without Pennsylvania,” an NRSC official said in mid-July according to another person who joined the call.
In a statement to POLITICO, NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline insisted the committee is committed to the race in Pennsylvania. After the story was published, Hartline disputed comments attributed to NRSC personnel, 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 campaigned across the state to speak to voters about their struggles with the failed agendas of Joe Biden and John Fetterman when Fetterman hasn’t been seen in public for three months,” Hartline said in an earlier statement. “The NRSC supports Oz’s campaign in every way, 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 praised his work with the NRSC.
“The NRSC is an incredible partner. We started a new ad campaign with them yesterday to highlight Fetterman’s crazy, radical track record,” said Oz spokeswoman Brittany Yanick. “The media’s desire to focus on and use unnamed or unknown sources for stories about a candidate who has done more than 115 campaign events in Pennsylvania in the past two months, rather than Fetterman, who has been in more than 77 year has not done a single public event. days is ridiculous. dr. Oz is going to win.”
With three months left until Election Day, Oz could still make a comeback, especially if he gains the support of Republican voters who are still bitter about his narrow win in a contentious May primary., who went to a recount. A belated boost in momentum would be reminiscent of Wisconsin Sen.’s campaign. Ron Johnson in 2016, when the NRSC went so far as to cancel television releases there, believing the seat to be lost, only to see the incumbent rise back up and win the race.
Oz’s campaign has maintained that Fetterman has never faced continued negative advertising, and even Democrats believe the race will tighten in the coming months. And there are no signs that the NRSC is pulling out of Pennsylvania.
The NRSC and Oz campaign jointly ran an ad this week attacking Fetterman for being gentle on crime. Until then, Oz had been dark on television since late May. sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), president of the NRSC, has a good relationship with Oz and, according to sources, was a special guest Thursday for a fundraising and dinner for Oz in the Philadelphia area.
Oz raised $3.8 million from April to June, more than half of which he borrowed himself, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Fetterman brought in $11 million during the same fundraising period in the second quarter.
At a small reception earlier this month with Scott, the NRSC leadership re-discussed Oz’s fundraising issues and the positive reviews on its head, according to another person in attendance.
NRSC Brass made it clear at the event that Republican Senate nominees across the country must take care of their own fundraising and cannot rely on the group to save them, the person said. Oz was then called “specific” as an example.
The person on last week’s donor call also said there was also a “little consternation” about Oz not contributing more of his own money to his general election campaign. Since bidding in the primary, Oz has lent his campaign more than $14 million.
The donor and consultant class has also complained about Oz’s recent travels, including trips he reportedly took after the May 17 primary to Ireland and Palm Beach.
Puck first reported that the NRSC was furious about Oz’s European trip. (Hartline, the NRSC spokesperson, told the publication, “Anyone making statements about the NRSC is either lying or mistaken.”)
A campaign source confirmed that Oz was in Pennsylvania during the first recount and was in Palm Beach by the end raising money for the “expensive” effort. Oz’s campaign did not respond to a question about whether the famous doctor who became the senate candidate was going to Ireland. According to Oz’s personal financial disclosure filed with the Senate, his wife owns Dunbrody House, a hotel and restaurant in Arthurstown, Ireland.
During the recent calls, NRSC officials also spoke about the fundraising struggle of Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance, the sources said, while also noting that Ohio is more favorable to the GOP than the perennial swing state of Pennsylvania.
Vance left the campaign trail in Ohio this month to visit Israel, where he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Tel Aviv and toured venues in Jerusalem. Ohio’s GOP Senate nominee has been dramatically maligned — and spent — by Rep. Tim Ryan, the Democrat seeking the seat of GOP Senator Rob Portman.
The path to capture the Senate, as it was privately outlined by NRSC officials in one of the appeals, includes holding the Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin seats, flipping Nevada, and then expelling Democrats from Georgia. , Arizona or both states, according to a source who heard the tone.
Amid uncertainty surrounding one of its key battlefield states, the NRSC is now signaling plans to invest money in at least two new raises in the blue state this year. On Thursday, the commission made its first TV ad purchases in Washington and Colorado — says President Joe Biden won double digits in 2020, while Republicans think they can make a compelling case for disgruntled Democratic and independent voters.
The commission spent $669,000 in airtime in Washington and $241,000 in Colorado a week on television ads that were scheduled to air Wednesday, according to the ad-tracking service AdImpact.
But Toomey remains optimistic about the party’s chances of holding his seat and warns of a coming barrage of assault ads against Fetterman, though he didn’t give details on what those would entail.
“There are many significant political vulnerabilities that Fetterman has,” Toomey said in an interview. “They’re going to be exposed, they haven’t been yet. Voters don’t know about those things. And when all of that is litigated — it’s litigated in an environment that’s very favorable to Republicans — Oz will win.”
Burgess Everett contributed to this article.