Former President Donald Trump offered a surprise endorsement of celebrity physician Dr. Mehmet Oz Saturday evening as he fights a widely watched battle for the Republican nomination for retiring Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey's seat.
Trump revealed his endorsement in a statement released by his team as the former president emerged onstage at a rally in Selma, North Carolina, for candidates fighting to win that state's primary. He argued that Oz, who is neck-and-neck with former Bridgewater Associates chief executive David McCormick, was the stronger candidate in terms of general election appeal.
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"This is all about winning elections in order to stop the Radical Left maniacs from destroying our Country," the 45th president's statement read. "The Great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a tremendous opportunity to Save America by electing the brilliant and well-known Dr. Mehmet Oz for the United States Senate. I have known Dr. Oz for many years, as have many others, even if only through his very successful television show."
Trump went on to discuss Oz's familiarity with the public, noting that the famed television personality "has lived with us through the screen and has always been popular, respected, and smart." He also praised Oz's vast academic and career credentials, noting that the physician "has authored more than 350 original publications, written 8 New York Times bestsellers, and received patents for developing medical devices that have improved countless lives and performed thousands of life-saving heart operations."
In a joking moment, Trump claimed that Oz "even said that I was in extraordinary health, which made me like him even more" before noting that the doctor also advised him to "lose a couple of pounds."
In terms of politics, the former president said that he and the celebrity doctor were quite aligned, noting that "Dr. Oz is Pro-Life, very strong on Crime, the Border, Election Fraud, our Great Military, and our Vets, Tax Cuts, and will always fight for and support our under-siege Second Amendment. He will ensure America will become Energy Independent again. Dr. Oz also passionately believes in high-quality education and protecting parent involvement throughout the process. Perhaps most importantly, I believe that Mehmet Oz will be the one most able to win the General Election against a Radical Left Democrat looking to do unthinkable harm to our Country."
Oz and McCormick were both actively courting Trump's endorsement in recent months. The two are the top competitors out of seven candidates seeking the Republican nomination for a general election race that will help decide which party takes control of the Senate. McCormick's camp includes a flurry of Trump administration alumni, such as former White House communications director Hope Hicks, Stephen Miller (a Trump senior adviser who helped craft the president's immigration doctrine), Kellyanne Conway (who guided the president through both campaigns and served as a senior adviser), and former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, as well as ex-Trump campaign adviser David Urban and former White House lawyer Jim Schultz, many of whom the former Bridgewater CEO hired to help launch his candidacy. In addition, he is married to Dina Powell, who served as Trump's deputy national security adviser. Oz, however, had his own group of high-profile supporters in Trump's ear, including former first lady Melania Trump and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Trump had originally endorsed Sean Parnell in the primary, though his campaign was derailed by domestic violence accusations by his estranged wife, causing him to drop out.
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In his statement about Oz, Trump noted that "women, in particular, are drawn to Dr. Oz for his advice and counsel. I have seen this many times over the years. They know him, believe in him, and trust him. Likewise, he will do very well in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where other candidates will just not be accepted."
Speaking about the surprise endorsement at his Saturday evening rally in North Carolina, the former president called Oz a "great guy" and a "good man." With regard to his familiarity, Trump argued that Oz's continued presence on television proved that the country liked him.
"You know, when you're in television for 18 years, that's like a poll. That means people like you," he told the crowd to laughs.