Source: Hot Air
I assumed Oz wouldn’t start taking overt digs at John Fetterman for having had a stroke until October. But the polling is grim. There’s no time to lose.
Besides, he wasn’t as nasty here as he could have been. One Twitter pal imagines Oz’s next broadside: “Maybe if Fetterman had eaten his vegetables, he wouldn’t be a vegetable.”
Why have vegetables become a hot topic in a swing-state Senate race? It’s because of the old Oz video below, which was posted in April of this year but went viral online only last week. Oz’s first sin in the clip was claiming that he was at “Wegner’s” grocery store, which doesn’t exist. Pennsylvania has Wegmans and it has Redner’s; Oz mixed them up, a gaffe tailor-made to feed Fetterman’s attack that he’s a carpetbagger from New Jersey who doesn’t know the state. Then Oz went on to say that he was shopping for vegetables because his wife wanted to make “crudité,” which is very much a word you’d expect a mega-rich doctor with 10 homes to use and very much not a word you’d expect a Republican politician in the Trump era who’s hoping to turn out blue-collar voters in November to use.
Who thought this was a good idea pic.twitter.com/dj5nz7vB1W
— umichvoter 🏳️🌈 (@umichvoter) August 15, 2022
Fetterman’s campaign recognized an opportunity when it saw one. Their whole message is that Fetterman is an unpretentious authentic Pennsylvanian, a blue-collar guy (not really) who lives and breathes his state’s culture and just happens to have the same politics as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Oz, meanwhile, is supposedly a rich phony who doesn’t understand Pennsylvania or its working class and thinks he can buy himself a Senate seat by throwing around money and kissing up to Trump. In fairness to Fetterman, he is the more populist of the two politically. It’s just that he’s a Bernie Sanders class warrior instead of, say, a Tucker Carlson culture warrior.
He’s spent the past week highlighting the “crudité” comment, hoping that the spectacle of a RINO using upper-class lingo — French upper-class lingo — will send some reluctant Republican Oz supporters into Team Fetterman’s tent.
In PA, we call this a Veggie Tray.
If this looks like anything other than a Veggie Tray to you, then I am probably NOT your candidate lol
— John Fetterman (@JohnFetterman) August 17, 2022
The campaign claims to have raised $1 million in the aftermath of Oz’s gaffe going viral. Fetterman is even using it as a jab on the stump:
Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman: “When you hear the word ‘steelworkers,’ does the word crudités come to your mind?”
Someone in the crowd yells, “Veggie tray!”
Fetterman: “Dr. Oz, crudités comes to his mind.” pic.twitter.com/oTN0eAjaFb
— The Recount (@therecount) August 23, 2022
The more attention Pennsylvania voters pay to Oz’s cultural distance, the less attention they’re paying to Fetterman’s ideological radicalism or to the fact that he clearly hasn’t fully recovered from his stroke. The words are there, mostly, but his cadence doesn’t quite track with the meaning. Something’s off.
Team Oz evidently has decided that it’s time for voters to start focusing on it. A roundhouse from the Oz comms team this afternoon:
In an exclusive statement as part of Insider’s investigation into Oz, the doctor’s campaign jabbed back. “If John Fetterman had ever eaten a vegetable in his life, then maybe he wouldn’t have had a major stroke and wouldn’t be in the position of having to lie about it constantly,” Rachel Tripp, Oz’s senior communications advisor, said.
That’s one way to steer the conversation away from Oz’s gaffe to Fetterman’s health. Although you’re left to wonder: How many MAGA fans in Pennsylvania aren’t big vegetable-eaters and/or have recovered from strokes? That is, how many voters are generally sympathetic to Fetterman’s health crisis instead of being predisposed to blame him for it?
Despite Oz’s best efforts to change the subject from “crudité,” he’s *still* being asked about it a week later — by otherwise friendly Fox outlets, no less:
Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee Dr. Oz defends calling a veggie tray “crudités,” claiming whether he uses conventional words or not is “irrelevant,” and then pivots to talking about a company that manufactures big fans. pic.twitter.com/y0HROEKCDf
— The Recount (@therecount) August 23, 2022
Maybe Oz going harshly negative on Fetterman over his stroke will be good for him. You’ve heard of “Dark MAGA” and “Dark Brandon.” Maybe “Dark Mehmet” is what it’ll take to finally get Trump voters to warm up to him.
Here’s my super-secret double extra spicy hot take on the Oz/Fetterman race, though: I think some MAGA fans … want Oz to lose.
I’m sure they’re ambivalent about it. They know that Oz fumbling away Pennsylvania makes the odds of Republicans retaking the Senate much longer. But for populists, the next best thing to a GOP Senate majority is watching a non-populist Republican get squashed by a Democrat, especially if that Democrat happens to be populist himself. The Trump movement is fundamentally about remaking the Republican Party in Trump’s populist image, with winning power only a secondary concern. (The party has no policy agenda. What good does holding power do them?) Seeing a squish like Oz run in a swing state and end up flattened by Fetterman will be useful to MAGA fans as evidence going forward that populism is the only way to win elections. Never mind that Doug Mastriano, one of the most ostentatious populists on the ballot anywhere in America this year, is also on track to be flattened in PA.
The point is, populist media is keen to highlight what a bad candidate Oz is because his struggles fit their theory of the case for which direction is best for the GOP. The party nominated a RINO in Pennsylvania this year. If he loses, that “proves” that centrism is a loser. And it would mean that the GOP had gotten what it deserved for not going in a different direction during the primaries.
Although don’t give up on Oz just yet!
That’s the best poll he’s had during the campaign. The bad news is that it comes from Trafalgar, a pollster that’s gotten famous by detecting hidden support for Republican candidates across the population that other pollsters tend to miss. If even Trafalgar has Oz losing, rest assured that he really is losing. He’s not out of the race, but Fetterman is close to 50 percent even in Trafalgar’s survey.
The best thing Oz can do going forward is to keep highlighting Fetterman’s radicalism on policy, keep challenging him to debates to raise doubt among voters about Fetterman’s cognitive fitness, and hope that inflation and a pro-GOP national environment does the rest. Fetterman probably can’t get elected simply by turning Oz into a punchline. Although I wouldn’t bet heavily on that.
I’ll leave you with this. It’s getting chippy out there.
Fetterman campaign responds by releasing a letter from 109 Pennsylvania doctors taking Oz to task for promoting pseudoscience on his TV show for years https://t.co/RELVeAxNxb pic.twitter.com/1PFJ98RI1p
— Jacob “Inside Elections is hiring” Rubashkin (@JacobRubashkin) August 23, 2022