Mehmet Oz, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, is quietly shifting his campaign messaging away from former President Trump as he transitions into what’s likely to be one of the most hotly contested Senate elections of the midterms.
Why it matters: Oz’s transition for the general election highlights the tightrope many Trump-endorsed candidates have attempted to walk — embrace the former president where it counts, while keeping him at arm’s length in situations where his brand is toxic.
- That was the strategy employed by Virginia’s Republican governor, Glenn Youngkin, during his successful campaign last year.
The backdrop: Trump was a heavy staple of Oz’s primary campaign, showing up frequently in his ads run even before the former president endorsed him in mid-April.
- After the endorsement, Trump was a near-ubiquitous fixture in Oz’s spots — even a series of six-second issue ads on guns, abortion and energy began with “endorsed by President Trump.”
- Oz’s Twitter account mentioned Trump more than 70 times between the endorsement on April 9 and primary day, May 17.
- On Google and Facebook, Oz’s campaign bought a barrage of Trump-focused ads during the primary.
- Both his Facebook and Twitter accounts were emblazoned during the primary with a cover photo of Trump and Oz with the words “endorsed by Trump,” and his website had a pop-up to let visitors know he was “Trump-endorsed.”
State of play: The ad Oz’s campaign ran after winning the Republican nomination didn’t mention or include footage of Trump — a stark departure from the tone of his primary ads.
- Oz’s social media banners now say “Thank you, Pennsylvania,” and feature a solo photo of him without Trump. His website no longer has a pop-up fundraiser appeal touting his Trump endorsement.
- Oz’s Twitter bio no longer advertises him as the “Trump Endorsed Candidate for U.S. Senate,” and he hasn’t tweeted about Trump since May 17.
- Oz’s campaign hasn’t run Facebook ads since the primary, and on Google his only general election ad reads, “The PA Senate Race will determine who has the majority. Donate to take back the US Senate!”
- Even on the Trump-run social media site Truth Social, Oz hasn’t posted about Trump since the primary — though he still touts his Trump endorsement in his bio.
What they’re saying: “The endorsement is the first endorsement listed on our website and we changed the banner to thank Pennsylvanians after the recount was completed,” Oz spokesperson Brittany Yanick told Axios.