‘Alarm bells ringing’: Oz struggles push GOP to offer alternative path to Senate takeover

During a donor call last week focused on Senate races nationwide, NRSC officials discussed Oz’s poor performance in the polls, including its high unfavorable ratings, a person told Reuters. the call.

“It was a wake-up call,” the person said, adding that Oz’s poor image among voters “really scares everyone.”

On the call, NRSC officials sought to calm nerves and assure backers that Republicans could still regain a majority in the Senate even without an Oz victory. The GOP needs to unseat just one Democrat this fall to win the Senate, which is currently split 50-50.

But Republicans must also defend other crucial swing states such as Wisconsin and North Carolina, while trying to topple Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. Failing to keep the Republican senator retired. Pat ToomeyThe Pennsylvania siege would be a blow to the party.

NRSC officials on the call “brought everyone’s attention to the fact that there is definitely a way to win the Senate even if Oz loses, and that seemed like a very big concern during the call. ‘call – it’s that Oz just hasn’t hit its stride as a candidate,” the person said on the phone last week. “The view was that it’s more important to reallocate the money to the seats 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 survey published this week. Oz’s challenges come despite its opponent’s own troubles, as well as the supportive political environment for Republicans across the country. In May, Fetterman suffered a stroke. He hasn’t held a public event since then, and although he recently said he was 100% capable of running, it’s not yet clear how vigorously he will be able to campaign.

On a separate call with donors in mid-July, while discussing Oz’s anemic fundraising and poor polling performance, an NRSC official again worked to ease the minds of contributors. and argued that Republicans could win 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 was on the call. ‘call.

In a statement to POLITICO, NRSC spokesman Chris Hartline argued the committee was engaged in the race in Pennsylvania. After the article was published, Hartline took issue with the comments attributed to NRSC staff, saying “any implication that we don’t have full confidence in the Oz campaign and our chances of winning the PA is false.” .

“Dr. Oz has campaigned statewide to speak to voters about their struggles over the failed agenda of Joe Biden and John Fetterman while Fetterman has not been seen in public for 3 months,” Hartline said. in an earlier statement, “The NRSC supports the Oz campaign in every way we can, as we do all Republican Senate campaigns, and we look forward to a big win in November.”

In a statement, the Oz campaign also touted its work with the NRSC.

“The NRSC is an incredible partner. We started a new ad campaign with them yesterday highlighting Fetterman’s crazy and radical record,” Oz spokeswoman Brittany Yanick said. “The media’s desire to focus on and their use of anonymous or unknown sources for stories about a candidate who held more than 115 campaign events across Pennsylvania in the past two months, instead of Fetterman, who n hasn’t held a single public event in over 77 days is ridiculous. Dr. Oz will win.

Three months from Election Day, Oz could still make a comeback, especially if he wins support from Republican voters still bitter about his narrow victory in a contentious primary in May., who went to a recount. A late burst of momentum would call Wisconsin Sen back. Ron Johnsonfrom 2016, when the NRSC went so far as to cancel TV spending there, believing the seat was lost, only to see the incumbent come back strong and win the race.

The Oz campaign has argued that Fetterman has never faced sustained negative publicity, and even Democrats believe the race will tighten in the coming months. And there is no indication that the NRSC is 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 TV 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 say.

Oz raised $3.8 million from April to June, more than half of which he loaned himself, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Fetterman brought in $11 million during the same second-quarter fundraising period.

At a small reception earlier this month with Scott, NRSC management again discussed Oz’s fundraising struggles and upside-down popularity ratings, according to another person who was present.

NRSC leaders made it clear at the event that Republican Senate candidates across the country must handle their own fundraising and cannot rely on the group to bail them out, the person said. Oz was later mentioned “specifically” as an example.

The person on last week’s appeal to donors also said there was also a “bit of dismay” that Oz had not contributed more of its own money to its general election campaign. Since launching a bid in the primary, Oz has loaned his campaign more than $14 million.

The donor and consultant class have also complained about Oz’s recent travels, including trips he allegedly took after the May 17 primary to Ireland and Palm Beach.

Puck reported for the first time that the NRSC was angry about Oz’s European trip. (Hartline, the NRSC spokesperson, told the publication, “Anyone who makes statements about the NRSC is either lying or being wrong.”)

A campaign source confirmed that Oz was in Pennsylvania during the primary recount and, near the end, was in Palm Beach to raise money for the “expensive” effort. The Oz campaign did not respond to questions about whether the famous doctor-turned-Senate candidate had traveled 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 spoke about Ohio Republican Senate candidate JD Vance’s fundraising struggles, the sources said, while noting that Ohio is more pro-GOP than the United States. perennial swing state of Pennsylvania.

This month, Vance left the campaign trail in Ohio to travel to Israel, where he spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Tel Aviv and visited sites in Jerusalem. The Ohio GOP Senate nominee has been significantly outspent — and outspent — by Rep. Tim Ryanthe Democrat seeking to retire GOP Sen. Rob Portmanheadquarters.

According to a source who heard the pitch.

Amid uncertainty surrounding one of its key battleground states, the NRSC is now signaling plans to pour money into at least two new blue state pickup opportunities this year. On Thursday, the committee made its first TV ad buys in Washington and Colorado says President Joe Biden has won by double digits in 2020, where Republicans believe they could make a compelling case to disgruntled Democratic and independent voters.

The committee spent $669,000 on airtime in Washington and $241,000 in Colorado for a week of television ads that are scheduled to begin airing Wednesday, according to ad-tracking service AdImpact.

But Toomey remains optimistic about the party’s chances of retaining his seat, warning of a coming barrage of attack announcements against Fetterman, although he did not elaborate on what that would include.

“There are a lot of significant political vulnerabilities at Fetterman,” Toomey said in an interview. “They’re going to be exposed, they haven’t been. Voters are not aware of these things. And when this all comes up for litigation — it’s going to take place in a very Republican-friendly environment — Oz is going to win.

Burgess Everett contributed to this article.

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