No one in the Republican party, given its current configuration, was entirely surprised when Donald Trump endorsed cardiac surgeon and daytime TV diet pill evangelist Mehmet Oz in the pivotal Pennsylvania Senate G.O.P. primary, on Friday evening, about five weeks in advance of the election. The nod, after all, was based on familiar Trumpian factors: going with the guy he knows best, the one who performs better on television, and who has done more to publicly tickle the erogenous zones of his ego. “He has lived with us through the screen and has always been popular, respected, and smart,” Trump wrote in his endorsement. “He even said that I was in extraordinary health, which made me like him even more.”
But within MAGA world, it was as if a neutron bomb had exploded: How did the perfectly qualified, perfectly handsome, perfectly Republican David McCormick not get the endorsement? Earlier this month, McCormick (or “Dave” as his pals insist upon, just as aides insisted that Bloomberg be called “Mike”) even sought out Trump in person at Mar-a-Lago, twice, including as recently as last Wednesday, according to Mike Allen. Not to mention the fact that “Dave” happens to be married to Dina Powell, the Goldman executive and former Trump Deputy National Security Advisor, who had presumably helped his campaign hire former Trump junior varsity members such as Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller, and Cliff Sims.
Theories abound in G.O.P. operative circles about what transpired to persuade Trump to side with Oz. Perhaps Trump was too easily swayed by Fox host Sean Hannity, who had been publicly cheerleading Oz for months. Perhaps he had some resentment toward Powell, who was always more of a Javanka person anyway. Perhaps Trump’s Nielsen-ratings-obsessed brain was aroused, a possibility that he alluded to during a rally on Saturday, when he brought up Oz’s long television run: “That’s like a poll. That means people like you.”