It’s been a confounding few months for expert TV doctor and political neophyte Dr. Mehmet Oz: After vanquishing Dave McCormick in the hotly-contested food fight of the Republican primary, he’s been accused of phoning it in during the general against John Fetterman, who had to sit out several months of campaigning while recovering from a stroke. Oz, of course, was never a preternatural politician. His background is in medicine, broadcast television, and TV-adjacent lifestyle businesses. He’s from New Jersey, not Pennsylvania, and his personal politics don’t easily align with the rightward demands of the base. And yet rather than gloss over these vulnerabilities, he’s largely exacerbated them with Bush I and Romneyesque rich guyisms—inventing a portmanteau for Wegmans and Redner’s, not knowing how many homes he owns—that make him an incongruent fit in a working class state. Hedge fund C.E.O. and Dina Powell’s husband David McCormick went to great lengths to transform himself into “Dave.” Oz, who I recently reported spent part of the summer on a European jaunt, is failing to catch up to the “regular guy” race.
His reputation as a globe-trotting, aloof candidate has increasingly vexed his party as the Republicans lose their grip on what once seemed like a lay-up: retaking the Senate. Trump-endorsed candidates like Oz, Herschel Walker, J.D. Vance, and Blake Masters now hang like dead weight over the party. And this may explain why many were surprised when Oz made an unexpected appearance, last week, at Kevin McCarthy’s exclusive annual confab for donors at the Four Seasons in Jackson Hole, where the House minority leader charted out how the Congressional Republicans were going to win the midterm elections. “When he showed up, everyone was like: why is he here?” remarked one attendee.
Why, in other words, was Oz missing out on what could have been valuable hours otherwise spent with constituents in Pennsylvania to hob-nob with McCarthy’s donors? In reality, however, Oz needs both. His campaign had little more than $1 million on hand at the end of June, and needs to raise more cash, unless he wants to self-fund, which candidates almost never want to do. Moreover, it seems, Oz was also there to give and receive spiritual counsel. To that end, he was seen huddling in a private room with the legendary yet controversial Republican pollster Frank Luntz, which “reeked of desperation” to some more seasoned observers.