As the critical Pennsylvania Senate race between Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Donald Trump-backed TV celebrity Dr. Oz rages on, the former president is coming to the same conclusion that numerous party consultants and conservative bigwigs arrived at earlier this summer: Oz is very likely doomed.
He’s going to “fucking lose,” unless something drastically changes, Trump has said privately of his chosen man in the Keystone State, according to two sources who’ve discussed the midterm election with the ex-president.
In recent weeks, some Trump allies have repeatedly flagged polling for the former president showing Dr. Oz down, at times by wide or double-digit margins, to his Democratic opponent. Trump has sometimes responded by asking advisers how it’s possible that someone who was that popular on TV for so long is doing so poorly in the polls. When Trump has inquired if the polling has been “phony” or skewed, multiple people close to him have assured him that — as one of the sources describes to Rolling Stone — “this is not a matter of the polls being ‘rigged,’ there are major problems with this campaign and, more specifically, this candidate.”
This source adds that Trump’s “view is that it would be incredibly embarrassing for Oz if he loses to ‘that guy’ because he thinks so little of [Fetterman]. He thinks Fetterman is in poorer shape than Biden and has hidden in his basement more [than Joe Biden].” (The Democratic Senate nominee has been recovering from a stroke he suffered earlier this year, shortly before winning his primary.)
But it wouldn’t just be embarrassing for Dr. Oz. According to a third source with knowledge of the situation, the ex-president has gone as far as to privately ask in the past two months if it was a mistake to endorse Dr. Oz in the Senate GOP contest. Mehmet Oz narrowly defeated David McCormick, husband to former Trump administration official Dina Powell, in a bruising primary that largely involved top-tier candidates trying to out-MAGA one another while begging for Trump’s endorsement. His eventual blessing of Dr. Oz over McCormick annoyed various members of the GOP elite, Trumpland, and the “America First” rank and file who saw Dr. Oz as a fake conservative or weaker general-election contender.
And having already helped drag Dr. Oz over the finish line in that primary, Trump appears prepared to try to do so again in the general. Hours after this story published on Friday, the former president announced that he would travel to Pennsylvania for a Sept. 3 rally in support of Doug Mastriano, Dr. Oz, and — in his self-obsessed terms — the “entire Pennsylvania Trump ticket.”
Dr. Oz’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment from Rolling Stone on Thursday. On Friday morning, Trump’s spokesman Taylor Budowich insisted that the idea that Trump thinks Dr. Oz will lose is “fake news,” adding, “Dr. Oz has been on the campaign trail championing the America First agenda and working to earn the support of every Pennsylvanian. In contrast, John Fetterman continues to advocate for the radical policies that are destroying America.”
A potential Dr. Oz loss in the crucial state of Pennsylvania could contribute to Democrats managing to hold the U.S. Senate in the 2022 midterms. It is not lost on prominent Trump supporters that Republican institutions still blame the twice-impeached former president — and his obsession over 2020 voter “fraud” lies — for the party’s loss of the Senate early last year. A redux of that Trump-inspired blunder this year could risk damaging his self-declared image as the most coveted endorsement in American politics today, as well as his status as the reigning leader of the GOP.
“The [former] president has used words like ‘lousy,’ and ‘awful,’ and ‘doesn’t make sense’ to describe how Dr. Oz has been campaigning against John Fetterman over the summer,” says another Trump adviser who has spoken to the former president at least twice since June. “Weeks ago is when [Trump] first started asking me and other people, ‘Is he going to fucking lose?’ I am positive that I’m not the only one to tell him that he probably will, if something big doesn’t change.” The other source who recently discussed Dr. Oz with Trump says the ex-president has predicted that the candidate with lose unless “he gets his act together,” the source said, paraphrasing Trump.
Dr. Oz has faced a brutal series of self-inflicted wounds on the campaign trail.
This week, The Daily Beast reported that Dr. Oz, who has claimed to own only two houses, owns 10 properties spread across New York, Florida, and Turkey. The Fetterman campaign, which has sought to paint the former Oprah guest star as a wealthy, out-of-touch outsider from New Jersey, seized on the revelation, turning it into a days-long news cycle.
Dr. Oz’s attempts to capitalize on voters’ anger about inflation also backfired when he filmed himself inside a grocery store highlighting the rising cost of food. The video segment depicted the Senate candidate at a grocery chain, mispronouncing the name of the store, and shopping for a random assortment of “crudité” like guacamole and asparagus while lamenting the price of the items.
The video landed so poorly with audiences that Dr. Oz himself was forced to own up on the pro-MAGA news channel, Newsmax, where the Senate candidate blamed his missteps on being “exhausted.”
Of course, Trump is hardly alone in dabbling in Oz skepticism right now. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has repeatedly feuded with Trump for control over the tone of the party, has sought to temper expectations about Republicans retaking the upper chamber, mentioning “candidate quality” as a possible inhibitor. It is still only August, but current polling data show that GOP fortunes look better for possibly regaining control of the House than of the Senate. Top GOP lawmakers and operatives have for months been extremely concerned about Dr. Oz’s “candidate quality,” and what they see as his lack of political charisma and his amateurish campaigning. “Is he in this to win? Does he think he’s going to win? Because I don’t think he’s acting like it, and that isn’t comforting,” one well-connected GOP operative working on 2022 races said earlier this month. According to two sources familiar with the matter, various consultants and figures in the party and conservative movement are also frustrated at Dr. Oz for not sinking many more millions into his own run for office, given that the famous TV doctor is reportedly worth upwards of $100 million. That is one factor leading some in the Republican elite to question whether Dr. Oz actually believes he will win and therefore worth the investment.
As Dr. Oz has sunk behind his rival Fetterman in successive polls, the national Republican Party has signaled that it shares Trump’s dim view of his chances. The National Republican Senate Committee recently pulled ads for Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania, along with two other Senate races. By contrast, a super PAC supporting McConnell has plowed roughly $28 million into Ohio to support another Trump-endorsed candidate, J.D. Vance, who faces a tight race with Democrat Rep. Tim Ryan, according to recent polling.
“President Trump was best served at the minimum staying neutral in the primary,” says Sam Nunberg, a former Trump adviser who has been critical of Dr. Oz. “Instead he wholeheartedly endorsed one of the most flawed candidates the Republicans have nationally nominated.”