Last week, the ever-volatile race for the Senate out of Pennsylvania was once again upended, this time with the announcement that surgeon and talk show host Dr. Mehmet Oz is running for the seat. Dr. Oz election odds are already shifting at PredictIt.
After former frontrunner Sean Parnell dropped out of the race because of allegations of domestic abuse made by a former partner, the race was in a state of flux, with David McCormick – the head of a hedge fund with $140B in assets – the only other credible contender for the race.
Oz has stepped into the void, and now the question is whether his political career will be a success in the vain of his famous friend Donald Trump, or be an elite bar trivia answer in a decade.
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Dr. Oz Election Odds: GOP Primary
|Candidate||Nov. 29, 2021 Price||Equivalent Odds|
There’s a good case that he will win the primary, and maybe even win it easily, but let’s start with the arguments against him and move backwards.
He’s an outsider, currently living in New Jersey, which while not a legal obstacle (he will move, surely) could be a political difficulty.
His history of bad medical opinions, including promoting dangerous, unscientific therapies for COVID to allowing a proponent of conversion therapy for homosexuals on his show in 2012.
Political outsiders and famous people before their political careers tend to have highly volatile career outcomes, which increases the chance of both booms and busts.
That all said, that boom or bust volatility is unlikely to hurt him in the GOP Primary, where his leading competition is McCormick.
Who is David McCormick?
McCormick, a former UnderSecretary to Treasury under George W. Bush and hedge fund manager, is a throwback kind of Republican candidate. McCormick is a fiscal conservative who values tax cuts, deregulation, and is unabashedly pro-business, even to the point of being pro-free trade – which is not what the current GOP wants.
McCormick has a history of supporting gay marriage, even, being one of just under 150 other prominent Republicans to sign an amicus brief in 2013 when the Supreme Court was hearing dual gay marriage cases around DOMA and California’s Prop 8.
McCormick’s path to victory in a general election would actually be quite wide, as the moderate stance on gay marriage could allow his to tap into some ex-Republicans who have drifted to Democrats over the GOP’s social conservatism, but he has to first win a GOP primary, and that’s why Dr. Oz is so favored.
The Case for Oz
If this were 2010, the Dr. Oz election odds and campaign would probably be a curiosity at most, but McCormick can’t rely on the same path to a GOP primary win. In 2010, votes cast in suburban Philadelphia’s Montgomery County in the primary were 42% Republican and 58% Democratic, meaning that a sizable chunk of the county’s primary electorate voted to choose the GOP nominee.
In 2020, that split was 29/71.
Those ex-Republicans with socially liberal views on abortion and gay marriage just don’t vote in Republican primaries anymore, and they’ve been replaced by cultural conservatives who used to vote for Democrats, predominantly in the western half of the state. Dr. Oz’s friendship with Donald Trump and his embrace of quack COVID cures will ingratiate himself to the party’s base.
Dr. Oz losing this primary to McCormick would be stunning, mesmerizing, and one of the biggest stunners of the cycle. Whatever you think of the quality of his medical advice, he is a good public speaker, an outsider in a political party who has shown willingness to go outside politics for candidates, and he is somehow under 50 cents.
Dr. Oz Election Odds: General Election
|Party||Dec. 6, 2021 Price||Equivalent Odds|
I think he can, and at a 52-cent price for the GOP to win the general election, I think it’s a clear value.
Dr. Oz will be able to skate over a lot of the traditional pitfalls of other candidates, having no voting record in Congress to be attacked over and no history of any personal failings. He will be attacked for the colorful history of The Dr. Oz Show, I have no doubt, but many of the things he will be attacked for won’t be huge net negatives.
Oz will have to do enough to distance himself from some of his past controversies, especially the gay conversion therapy episode, but think back to all the Trump scandals that were supposedly race-enders in 2016. He disrespected John McCain by saying, “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured”. There was also the Access Hollywood tape and denying a sexual assault allegation by suggesting she wasn’t hot enough to want to sleep with. Trump won Pennsylvania in 2016.
The past scandals won’t matter, especially given Oz will not be running in a neutral, or even Democratic-leaning year. It seems unlikely at this point that Democrats will not rebound at least slightly from their current positions, but it is ludicrous to think that they will sufficiently do so to overcome the huge mountain that their post-Virginia landscape provides for them.
Maybe Conor Lamb will beat John Fetterman and then roll back the clock enough for Democrats to win the state, but it seems unlikely at this point, and the chance of a GOP victory are certainly more likely than a slightly weighted coin toss.
The Dr. Oz election odds and his candidacy have been mocked by many liberals and Democrats, but it misses the fact that a straight talking political outsider has political currency with many voters, and the kinds of voters who still vote for the GOP will not be moved by deep dives into the many crazy and conspiratorial things said in the 13 seasons of The Dr. Oz Show.
Democrats should be absolutely terrified of his candidacy, because he will be a much harder mark to run against than either the cartoonishly villainous private equity barren that they would paint McCormick as or against Parnell, who had more baggage than someone moving cross country.
Dr. Oz is probably going to be the next U.S. Senator from the state of Pennsylvania, and to deny that fact would be a repetition of the same denial that led so many – including yours truly – to thinking Trump couldn’t win in 2016.