On a donor call last week that focused on Senate races across the country, NRSC officials discussed Oz’s poor polling performance, including his high unfavorability ratings, said a person on the call
“It was a wake-up call,” the person said, adding that Oz’s poor image among voters is “frightening everyone.”
On the call, NRSC officials tried to calm nerves and reassure financial backers that Republicans could still retake the Senate majority even without an Oz victory. The GOP only needs to unseat one Democrat this fall to win the Senate, which is currently split 50-50.
But Republicans must also defend other crucial states like Wisconsin and North Carolina while trying to flip the likes of Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. Not being able to withstand the withdrawal of the Republican senator. Pat ToomeyThe Pennsylvania seat would be a huge blow to the party.
NRSC officials on the call “brought to everyone’s attention that there is definitely a path to win the Senate even if Oz loses, and that seemed to be a big concern on the call — is that Oz hasn’t gotten his time as a candidate.” the person said on the call last week. “The view was that it was more important to reallocate money to seats that we think we can win.”
Oz has consistently trailed Democratic Senate candidate John Fetterman in public polls, including, most dramatically, by 11 percentage points in a Fox News poll released this week. Oz’s challenges come despite his opponent’s problems, as well as a favorable political environment for Republicans across the country. In May, Fetterman suffered a stroke. He hasn’t held a public event since then, and while he recently said he’s 100 percent able to show up, it’s still unclear how hard he’ll be able to campaign.
On a separate call with donors in mid-July, while discussing Oz’s anemic fundraising and poor poll performance, an NRSC official went back to work to ease contributors’ minds, arguing that the Republicans could take back the Senate without Pennsylvania if necessary.
“We have a path with Pennsylvania, and don’t worry, we have a path without Pennsylvania,” an NRSC official said on the mid-July call, according to another person who participated in the call.
In a statement to POLITICO, NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline maintained the committee is committed to the Pennsylvania race. After the story broke, Hartline disputed the comments attributed to NRSC staff, saying “any implication that we don’t have full confidence in Oz’s campaign and our chances of winning PA is false.”
“Dr. Oz has been campaigning across the state talking to voters about his struggles to deal with the failed agenda of Joe Biden and John Fetterman, while Fetterman hasn’t been seen in public in three months,” he said Hartline in an earlier statement. “The NRSC is supporting Oz’s campaign in every way we can, as we do with all Republican Senate campaigns, and we look forward to a big win in November.”
In a statement, Oz’s campaign also touted its work with the NRSC.
“The NRSC is an incredible partner. We kicked off a new ad campaign with them yesterday highlighting Fetterman’s crazy and radical record,” said Oz spokeswoman Brittany Yanick. “The media’s desire to focus on and their use of unnamed or unknown sources for stories about a candidate who has held more than 115 campaign events in Pennsylvania over the past two months, rather than Fetterman, who has not done no public event in more than 77 days is ridiculous Dr. Oz will win.
With Election Day three months away, Oz could still make a comeback, especially if he garners support from Republican voters still bitter about his narrow victory in a contentious May primary that was a recount. A late surge in momentum would remind the Wisconsin senator. Ron JohnsonThe 2016 campaign, when the NRSC went so far as to cancel TV spending there, believing the seat had been lost, only to see the incumbent come back and win the race.
Oz’s campaign has maintained that Fetterman has never faced sustained negative publicity, and even Democrats believe the race will tighten in the coming months. And there are no signs of the NRSC pulling out of Pennsylvania.
The NRSC and Oz campaign jointly released an ad this week attacking Fetterman as soft on crime. Until then, Oz had been dark on television since late May. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chairman of the NRSC, has a good relationship with Oz and was a special guest at a fundraiser and dinner for Oz on Thursday in the Philadelphia area, sources said.
Oz raised $3.8 million from April to June, more than half of which he lent himself, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Fetterman brought in $11 million during the same fundraising period in the second quarter.
At a small reception earlier this month with Scott, NRSC leadership again discussed Oz’s fundraising difficulties and upside ratings, according to another person who attended.
NRSC brass made it clear at the event that Republican Senate candidates across the country must take charge of their own fundraising and cannot rely on the group to bail them out, the person said . Oz was then “specifically” mentioned as an example.
The person on last week’s donor call also said there was also “some consternation” that Oz hasn’t contributed more of his own money to his campaign. Since launching a bid in the primary, Oz has loaned his campaign more than $14 million.
The donor and consultant class has also complained about Oz’s recent trips, including trips he reportedly took after the May 17 primary to Ireland and Palm Beach.
Puck first reported that the NRSC was upset about Oz’s European trip. (Hartline, the NRSC spokesman, told the publication, “Anyone who makes statements about the NRSC is either lying or mistaken.)
A campaign source confirmed that Oz was in Pennsylvania during the primary count and was in Palm Beach toward the end to raise money for the “busy” effort. Oz’s campaign did not respond to a question about whether the celebrity doctor-turned-Senate candidate went to Ireland. According to Oz’s personal financial disclosure filed with the Senate, his wife owns Dunbrody House, a hotel and restaurant in Arthurstown, Ireland.
In recent calls, NRSC officials also discussed the fundraising struggles of Ohio Republican candidate JD Vance, while noting that Ohio is more GOP-friendly than the state of Pennsylvania.
Vance this month left the Ohio campaign to visit Israel, where he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Tel Aviv and visited sites in Jerusalem. Ohio’s GOP Senate candidate has been dramatically upset and outmatched by Rep. Tim Ryanthe Democrat seeking the Republican senator’s retirement. Rob Portmanthe seat of
The path to capturing the Senate, as laid out privately by NRSC officials on one of the calls, includes holding seats in Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin, flipping Nevada and then pushing Democrats out of Georgia, Arizona or both states, as reported. a source who heard the tone.
Amid the uncertainty surrounding one of its top battleground states, the NRSC is now signaling plans to pour money into at least two new blue state collection opportunities this year. On Thursday, the committee made its first TV ad buys in Washington and Colorado — states President Joe Biden won by double digits in 2020 — where Republicans believe they can make a compelling case to Democratic voters and disgruntled independents.
The committee spent $669,000 in airtime in Washington and $241,000 in Colorado on a week’s worth of television ads that will begin airing Wednesday, according to ad tracking service AdImpact.
But Toomey remains optimistic about the party’s chances of taking his seat, warning of an explosion of attack ads against Fetterman, though he did not offer details on what they would include.
“There are a lot of significant political vulnerabilities that Fetterman has,” Toomey said in an interview. “They will be exposed, they haven’t been yet. Voters don’t know about these things. And when all of this is litigated, litigated in a very pro-Republican environment, Oz will win.”
Burgess Everett contributed to this article.