A poll of the GOP primary for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania shows celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz with a slim lead while race newcomer David McCormick is surging behind him in second place.
Oz’s weak lead of 27.4 percent still sits atop the pack, but with universal name ID one would think Oz would have a stronger showing than that. McCormick, who was generally unknown and undefined to voters before his mid-January entrance into the race, quickly in just two weeks’ time moved into second place at 15.9 percent.
Carla Sands, a former Trump ambassador to Denmark, is in third place with 14.8 percent, and veteran Kathy Barnette is in fourth with 8.9 percent while Jeff Bartos is down trailing significantly in fifth place with just 6.6 percent. Every other candidate gets less than 2 percent, but perhaps the more interesting number is the high level of undecided voters at 21.6 percent—a number that rivals the for-now front-running Oz’s number.
This survey, from the Trafalgar Group, was conducted back in early February and was not released until now—the dates conducted are from Feb. 1 to Feb. 4, 2022, two weeks ago, and for McCormick to have shot up in the survey so quickly since his mid-January entrance into the race seems to the biggest takeaway from this poll.
Oz has been holding a weaker-than-originally-expected lead over the field since his late 2021 entrance into the primary, which came in the wake of veteran Sean Parnell’s exit from the race over family issues. Parnell snubbed Oz by endorsing McCormick on the second day of McCormick’s campaign, and McCormick has assembled quite the list of impressive endorsements early with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both backing him.
It’s also worth noting the polling of the field has not changed much since December for anyone but McCormick. Margin-wise compared with the rest of the field, Oz seems frozen where he was when McCormick was considering getting in in late 2021–as do the other candidates. The only difference now is an extra candidate who quickly jumped up to 16 percent in just two weeks. From a Breitbart News piece in December 2021 previewing the McCormick candidacy:
Two polls conducted in the wake of Oz’s entrance into the field show the television doctor not gaining any real steam in the Keystone State despite overpowering narrative dominance with millions of dollars in both earned and unearned media. An Echelon Insights poll conducted from December 1 to December 3 shows while Oz is indeed in first place in the crowded field, he is barely there at just 11 percent. That poll has Barnette at 7 percent, Sands at 5 percent, and Bartos as well as fellow Republican Sean Gale down at 4 percent—not exactly a commanding Oz lead.
A second one, conducted by the leading GOP pollster the Trafalgar Group, confirmed this trend despite some movement towards Oz since the Echelon poll. That survey, conducted December 13 to December 16, also found Oz in first place with just under 19 percent and Barnette in second with 8 percent, Sands in third with 7.4 percent, Bartos way back in fourth with 3.2 percent, and Gale down in last with just 1 percent. The leading response, the Trafalgar survey found, was by far undecided: 50.8 percent said they did not know who they would back, and another 10.8 percent said they supported “another candidate.”
These two surveys are the first to not include the name Parnell, the previous Trump-backed runaway frontrunner before he dropped out of the race, and suggest a shakeup in the field is ripe for the taking with the right conditions—which is a large part of why sources close to him say McCormick is very seriously weighing running.
In other words, the first public survey done since McCormick’s entrance into the race–while it shows Oz still in front–confirmed McCormick’s team’s thinking as reported back then, and seems to show him on the rise in a very big way. Where the next polls go from here–this data in the latest Trafalgar survey is two weeks old already before it was published–remains to be seen, but Oz seems to slipping as fast as he rose.
While Oz has Fox News pundit Sean Hannity in his corner—Hannity repeatedly backs up Oz despite serious issues with the celebrity doctor’s policy past—McCormick seems to be lining up most of Trump’s orbit behind him. In addition to Cruz and Pompeo, the National Border Patrol Council—which was pivotal in its endorsement of Trump in 2016—formally backed McCormick last week.
Oz has faced numerous setbacks since attempting to leverage his celebrity into a U.S. Senate bid, including recent revelations that Oz and his wife have partial ownership in a family company that received the largest ever fine—$95 million in total—from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for a scheme to hire and rehire illegal alien workers. Oz’s history as a television doctor siding with the left on the core issues, including immigration and transgenderism, is hindering his ability to convince Pennsylvania Republicans that he is one of them—no matter how many times Hannity tells them so.
McCormick, meanwhile, has easily swept away the image of being a Wall Street stooge—he literally was the CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund until a few weeks ago when he entered the U.S. Senate race—and embraced a Trumpian nationalist populist message on trade and immigration a move to throw the Wall Street folks to the wolves to fight for his roots as a native son of Pennsylvania’s rural working class.
As Politico noted in its Morning Score newsletter on Tuesday, Oz still is leading the pack in spending on television as of now—having already spent north of eight figures on his own campaign. But McCormick and his allies are not far behind. “Along with topping the poll, Oz is also the top spending candidate on the airwaves, according to AdImpact,” Politico’s Stephanie Murray wrote. “Oz has spent $10.2 million on TV ads, while McCormick has spent $5.6 million. The pro-McCormick Honor Pennsylvania super PAC is the overall highest spender on TV ads with $12.6 million in airtime.”
So, while Oz has the lead for now, McCormick’s strategy seems to be working—at least as evidenced by this survey from Trafalgar.
This weeks-old survey was also taken before the National Border Patrol Council endorsement, before a border trip from McCormick, and before McCormick’s Super Bowl ad hyping the “Let’s Go Brandon” movement which got much fanfare and attention on the right and aired on television in Pennsylvania during the big game.