While David “Dave” McCormick continues his dogged march through Pennsylvania’s seemingly infinite V.F.W. halls and Bucks County diners, Mehmet Oz is gearing up for a Friday rally with his most valuable supporter Donald Trump, whose recent endorsement in the Ohio G.O.P. Senate primary just propelled late MAGA convert J.D. Vance from a meager third place to a resounding victory. Vance, of course, was previously unpopular with diehard Trumpists—whose idol he once called “noxious” and “an idiot”—and remains quietly disliked by the Republican establishment in Washington. But a Trump nod (plus the approval of Tucker Carlson) hides a multitude of sins.
Indeed, Vance jumped at least 15 points in the RCP polling average between April 14, when it was first rumored that Trump was about to endorse him, and the primary election last night, when Vance clobbered runner-up Josh Mandel, the fist-throwing Ohio state treasurer, by a whopping 9.5 point margin. It didn’t hurt that Vance received $15 million from his longtime mentor-patron, Peter Thiel, the largest single Senate campaign donation on record, which allowed Vance (and Thiel, via a Super PAC) to blanket the state with TV ads highlighting his Trump seal of approval. Of course, money like that is table stakes in the Pennsylvania race, considering that both McCormick and Oz are self-made centimillionaires who’ve personally donated millions to their own campaigns; both are supported by super PACs juiced up by equally rich allies. All other things being equal, the Dina Powell-Jeff Roe-Hope Hicks brain trust has got to be worried about what just went down in Ohio.
But the Pennsylvania race, insiders say, is not over. As an Oz ally put it to me, the Ohio race was more of a gladiator match—every candidate had massive negatives and had to vie for Trump’s endorsement to break out of an equally disliked pack. Pennsylvania Republicans are blessed, on the other hand, with two top-tier pro-Trump candidates, either of whom would be perfectly palatable as a G.O.P. senator. (At the very least, they aren’t picking physical fights with each other.) A Trump endorsement certainly helps Oz, but it may not be conclusive as it was for Vance. “Trump endorsing Vance was like the sky falling down,” the Oz ally explained. “Trump endorsing Oz was not a giant surprise.”