PA Primary: Trump's Oz Endorsement, the 'Ugly' Part of Vetting & More
Ceisler Media Founder Larry Ceisler weighs in as the 2022 Pennsylvania primary races heat up.
Q: President Trump’s endorsement of Mehmet Oz for Senate certainly changed the dynamic in the GOP race. Were you surprised?
LC: I’m very surprised he endorsed Oz. Several of Trump’s former inner circle are with [GOP opponent] David McCormick, as are many in the state and national Republican hierarchy. The latest polls showed Oz petering out — some would even say his campaign was on the verge of collapse. McCormick has been regarded as the stronger candidate. With control of the Senate up for grabs, I’m sure Mitch McConnell is scratching his head over this.
Q: What do you think Trump’s rationale is here?
LC: I think Trump is just a sucker for celebrity. At the same time, you can’t sell celebrity short. That was Trump, and he was elected. The thing is, Trump will endorse whoever he thinks will win. He’s already backed David Perdue in Georgia, who’s going to lose, and Liz Cheney’s challenger in Wyoming (Harriet Hageman), who will likely lose. So, at this point, the Trump endorsement means more to Trump than to any particular candidate, because it’s about his own viability.
So Trump needs to find someone who will actually win. Apparently, he thinks that’s Oz, but he certainly is in the minority there.
Q: So you think that David McCormick is still the favorite to win this primary?
LC: Trump certainly put oxygen into the Oz campaign, but I’d still bet on McCormick. And if McCormick or Jeff Bartos wins the primary, they’ll emerge as a stronger general election candidate because they did it without Trump. In a general, his endorsement carries some baggage.
Q: We’re now weeks away from that primary. Focusing further on the Senate race, what we’ve seen so far is a nasty campaign. Is that inevitable?
LC: We call it nasty, but to me, it’s vetting. For most candidates, it’s better to deal with the dirt early and inoculate yourself against it. Because I guarantee it all will get hotter and heavier in the general. So, for example, Democrats who complain about Conor Lamb calling John Fetterman a socialist aren’t doing Fetterman any favors. With all those controversial issues, it’s better to get it out now.
It’s the same on the Republican side. Oz has to handle being called a Hollywood-loving liberal and McCormick has to deal with the stuff about China and being termed a hedge fund executive who moved jobs away.
So yes, it’s already ugly. But that’s part of the vetting process.
Q: Recently, YouTube temporarily pulled a video of the Pennsylvania Family Institute’s GOP gubernatorial forum after Lou Barletta claimed the 2020 election was stolen. What responsibility do those platforms hold for ensuring accuracy?
LC: I think to pull that debate was ridiculous — and once YouTube reconsidered it, they agreed. Barletta could have said the same thing on statewide broadcast TV — and then what? Bleep him out? No, censoring it went over the line.
Q: While we’re talking about controlling the narrative, four candidates in that GOP race said they won’t take the stage for a debate unless certain conditions are met — including that the moderators must be registered Republicans and not have publicly criticized any candidates. Is that a bad precedent?
LC: It’s like a bunch of guys being willing to put the gloves on, but not be willing to fight. It’s ridiculous that they want to self-select the moderator. It’s their way of hiding. And whoever wins the primary — is he then going to pull the same stunt in the general and then not debate? It speaks to the power of social and digital media that they may just decide not to engage in a live debate.
Larry Ceisler is the Founder of Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy