Sat. May 28th, 2022

Donald Trump has backed Mehmet Oz, the celebrity physician, in the race for an open Senate seat in Pennsylvania, making his most high-profile endorsement to date ahead of the November midterm elections.

The former president’s announcement on Saturday night marks a big setback for David McCormicka former hedge fund boss and senior Treasury official under George W Bush, who is leading the Republican primary contest set for mid-May.

McCormick had aggressively courted Trump’s support by hiring several of his former aides, including communications strategist Hope Hicks. He also adopted a number of policies associated with Trump, including a hardline immigration stance, and visited the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort last week.

But Trump nonetheless decided to support Oz, saying he would be “Pro-life, very strong on crime, the border, election fraud, our great military, and our vets, tax cuts” – and would “win the general election against a radical left Democrat looking to do unthinkable harm to our country ”.

Trump’s endorsements do not carry the same weight as they did when he was president. But he is still the most influential figure in the Republican party and his backing can help energize the base of the party in favor of a certain candidate.

Trump endorsements can also backfire, however, if they cause more extreme candidates to emerge from Republican primaries who are less palatable to general election voters. This possibility is making some Republican strategists nervous in what is expected to otherwise be a favorable year for the party’s candidates.

Trump has already endorsed Herschel Walker, a former American football player, for the race to challenge Democrat Raphael Warnock’s Senate seat in Georgia, and this week backed Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential nominee in 2008, for an open congressional seat. in Alaska. JD Vance and Josh Mandel are vying for Trump’s backing in Ohio.

The fate and appeal of Trump-backed candidates will be closely watched throughout the year as a guide to whether the former president will decide to make his own run for a second term in the White House in 2024.

A new Trump run is possible despite the fact that he was twice impeached, remains wholly unrepentant about his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and still appears to admire Vladimir Putin at a time when Russian forces are committing atrocities against Ukrainian civilians.

In the Pennsylvania race, McCormick still holds a slight edge over Oz from 21 percent to 18.4 percent, according to the average of recent polls.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump’s former press secretary, Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, and Mike Pompeo, the former state secretary, have all backed McCormick. But Oz has been able to clinch support from Sean Hannity, the conservative Fox News host, and Rick Perry, the former Texas governor and former energy secretary.

Whoever prevails in the Republican primary will face off in November against a Democrat likely to be either Conor Lamb, a moderate member of the House of Representatives, or the more mainstream progressive lieutenant-governor John Fetterman. They are all competing to replace Pat Toomey, the retiring Republican senator who is the party’s top member of the powerful banking committee on Capitol Hill.

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