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Bad Days In Pennsylvania For Conservative Senate Candidates, Conor Lamb (D) & Mehmet Oz (R)

Oz and Lamb

Conor Lamb is running for the Democratic nomination for the open Pennsylvania Senate seat. But he's still in Congress and still voting. His voting record is putrid. There are 191 Democrats with better voting records than Lamb's, just 29 with worse voting records. You want another Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin in the Senate? Conor's your guy. But not Pennsylvania's Democrats' guy. There have been 7 polls since he jumped into the race. He's been a distant second or third to progressive Lt. Governor John Fetterman in each one. The most recent poll, by GQR Research:

  • John Fetterman- 44%

  • Malcolm Kenyatta- 20%

  • Conor Lamb- 15%

  • Val Arkoosh- 6%

While Fetterman, the progressive in the race, has been putting all of his energy into contacting voters in front of the May 17 primary, Lamb has put all of his energy into contacting party insiders. That didn't pay off yesterday. He was counting on being endorsed by the conservative-leaning Pennsylvania Democratic Party committee but they deadlocked today and he walked away empty handed. AP reported that "Lamb had called each committee member multiple times, his campaign said, and sent them mail pieces... A campaign spokesperson [for Fetterman] shrugged off the vote afterward, saying Fetterman’s campaign doesn’t 'run through ballrooms, our campaign runs through the people in 67 counties. The inside game isn’t our game,' spokesperson Joe Calvello said. 'So nothing changes for us today. We keep doing our thing. We keep going to every county, every vote, talking to the people.'"

State Rep Kenyatta pointed out that "the campaign for committee members’ votes is the kind of 'traditional politics' that have continued to fail working people. Lamb, he said, had a home-field advantage as a 'master of inside baseball establishment politics' that have helped Lamb avoid a primary challenge in his three campaigns for Congress.

Meanwhile the Republican field is notable for three wealthy and well-connected candidates moving from blue states to run in Pennsylvania. One Mehmet Oz, a TV doctor and Trump crackpot, has, according to Politico's Holly Otterbein stumbled badly as he launched his campaign. She wrote that his "introduction to GOP grassroots politics is a code-red crisis. In his first three unofficial tests as a candidate in Pennsylvania’s Republican Senate primary, the celebrity physician known as Dr. Oz has been handily rejected by party activists. It’s a disappointing start for a cash-flush, top-tier candidate in one of the most important Senate races in the country."

A little over a week ago, Oz met with GOP state committee members and answered their questions alongside other Republican Senate candidates at a hotel just outside Harrisburg. Afterward, a straw poll was held. Despite his widespread name ID and deep pockets-- he’s spent or booked $5.4 million on TV ads since Nov. 30-- Oz received just one vote out of more than 100 cast.
This past weekend, Oz had a chance to prove it was a fluke. Two different groups of state committee members-- one in the Allentown area and one in northeastern Pennsylvania-- again peppered Senate hopefuls with questions at party events. But he underperformed expectations again: He finished third in one straw poll and fourth in another.
...It might not matter, though. Oz is seeking to run as a Trump-style gate-crasher who can attract hordes of ordinary Republican voters, not necessarily party officials, to campaign events. According to two separate gubernatorial campaigns in the state, Oz is leading in their internal polling of the GOP Senate primary.
...It is still early in the race, however, and Oz’s opponents and allied super PACs are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars on TV spots attempting to tear him down. Former President Donald Trump, whose endorsement is critical in GOP primaries, heard of Oz’s poor showing at the first caucus meeting, where he received a single vote: He was “taken aback” and “expected him to do better because of the celebrity,” a Trump-world adviser said.
GOP activists and political consultants said Oz is struggling among state committee members partly because his past comments on critical policies are coming back to haunt him. He previously voiced support for abortion rights and “red flag” gun laws. A recent ad by Pennsylvania Patriots PAC also points out that he once starred in a commercial trumpeting former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Another super PAC that is backing former hedge fund CEO David McCormick in the primary, Honor Pennsylvania, is also blasting Oz in spots as a "Hollywood Liberal." Rob Collins, chair of the group, said it is planning to raise and spend $50 million in the primary.
Ray Zaborney, a Pennsylvania-based GOP strategist who is not involved in the Senate race, said: “I think Oz has had some challenges because in the last few weeks, you’ve seen questions about his issue positions. And despite going to meet with state committee people and engaging them, what they’ve learned about him over the last couple weeks has been he did ads for Obamacare. There are questions about where he is on life. And those are fundamental questions for activists.”
Other party members said it’s Oz’s tenuous connection to Pennsylvania, a famously parochial state, that is hurting him. Oz was a longtime resident of New Jersey, and voted there as recently as 2020. He has said he is now renting a home owned by his in-laws in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Dick Stewart, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s Central Caucus, which voted over a week ago, said that meeting was “probably the first time people met [Oz], and he got some heavy questioning on, ‘How come you don’t own property here and are you associating with all these Hollywood liberals?’”
Yet Oz is only one of a handful of candidates in the Senate primary who have recently lived elsewhere. McCormick, who was raised in Pennsylvania and long owned a family farm in Bloomsburg, was a Connecticut resident until recently. Carla Sands, an ambassador to Denmark under Trump, grew up in Pennsylvania before spending decades in California. Still, some GOP insiders said Oz is perceived as having the thinnest ties to the state.

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