In a twist, Democrats attack a candidate, Mehmet Oz, for showbiz ties – Deadline

In a recent commercial by John Fetterman, the Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania running for an open seat in the US Senate, he attacked his rival, Mehmet Oz, as “not one of us” and part of the wealthy elite of the United States. entertainment.

“Hey, Doc Hollywood, save your money, Pennsylvania isn’t for sale,” Fetterman said in the spot, as video of Oz, the longtime syndicated TV host, kissed his star on the Walk of Fame.

It’s certainly no novel for a campaign to tease a rival for its Hollywood ties, but this time it’s a Democrat, Fetterman, trying to tattoo a Republican, Oz, for his showbiz embrace. It’s a bit of a twist on a common campaign tactic used by the right against its opponents on the left, who have dominated fundraising and support in Hollywood for generations.

By countering Oz’s name recognition, Fetterman even tried to weaponize fame, like during his campaign Enlisted Snooki of jerseyshore to troll Oz in a parody of Cameo, meant to highlight his move from New Jersey to Pennsylvania and play on the Keystone State’s disdain for its neighbor.

Mehmet Oz at the Walk of Fame ceremony in February.
(AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Oz tried to take a page from the playbook of Donald Trump, who endorsed it, touting his personal brand as just what is needed to take on the Washington establishment. His campaign logo features the same square box as his TV show.

Like Trump, Oz has also relished the limelight, serving as grand marshal of Hollywood’s Christmas parade, attending red carpet events and the Daytime Emmy Awards, for which he won three times for entertainment. and the show four times as Outstanding Talk Show.

Even after announcing his Senate run, Oz appeared on the Wall of Fame for a ceremony in February to unveil his star, or which recipients are liable for a $50,000 sponsorship fee.

At the event, Oz linked the Walk of Fame ceremony itself to his campaign in Pennsylvania. He told TMZ, “I think our state is a wonderful microcosm of the whole country, that you actually have to get people from both sides of the aisle talking to each other. That’s why I kept talking about the fact that, the shine of this star, this Hollywood star, reflects the divine spark, the divinity in our eyes, when we look at each other, we see her, so love us and respect each other.

His main rival for the Republican nomination, David McCormick, took notice, as his campaign attacked Oz as spending his life putting fame and Hollywood first. A McCormick-affiliated PAC already had a place in the Oz rankings as a “Hollywood liberal”. “Dr. Oz may be right about Hollywood, but he’s wrong about Pennsylvania.

John Fetterman in a recent ad.
Screenshot

Trump’s endorsement, however, helped Oz narrowly defeat McCormick in the primary. Fetterman has, to some extent, picked up where Oz’s old rival left off. This meant continued attacks on Oz’s background as a longtime out-of-state resident of Cliffside Park, NJ. As he tries to make inroads among rural and working-class voters, Fetterman, often in a hoodie and showing off his tattoos, also tries to contrast himself with Oz, implying that “Doc Hollywood” is out of touch.

Fetterman called for raising the minimum wage, protecting unions, fighting climate change, preserving abortion rights and advocating for a “compassionate response to immigration reform,” all issues at stake. phase with most Democrats.

Sean Parnell, who dropped out of the GOP Senate primary race last year, told NBC News in May that Fetterman was “kind of a blue-collar Democratic folk hero swinging at the hammer. He is not that. It will therefore be the job of the Republican candidate to underline and show it. »

Polls suggest Fetterman has made inroads. The RealClearPolitics average earns him more than eight points on Oz. A recent Fox News poll, which showed Fetterman with an 11-point lead, showed fewer Republicans sticking with Oz, 73%, compared to Democrats sticking with Fetterman, at 89%.

Dr. Oz commercial screenshot

“The juxtaposition of Fetterman as someone who was born in the state, went to school in the state, served as mayor of the state, against an opponent who lived in New Jersey and came [into the public eye] through television – the connection to Hollywood is quite powerful,” said Christopher Borick, professor of political science at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Borick noted that Fetterman essentially ties Oz’s Hollywood connections to his New Jersey residency, two places that aren’t quite “loved” in Pennsylvania.

“Certainly celebrities here, like anywhere else, can help grab attention and, by addressing the right audience, can bring energy to a campaign,” he said. “Their role is not always the damaging one. But that can have a downside, especially if you’re tied to a place that isn’t voter-positive.

Republicans have been trying for some time to turn a rival’s Hollywood ties into negatives. Josh Hawley attempted to link Claire McCaskill to Harvey Weinstein during his 2018 Senate race. Four years earlier, Mitch McConnell’s allies created a fake Hollywood Squares graphic to link rival Alison Grimes to Hollywood liberals.

Like other Democrats in hotly contested Senate races this cycle, Fetterman appealed to Hollywood donors. They include Barbra Streisand, Don Henley, Damon Lindelof, David Mandel, Christian Bale, Marg Helgenberger, Mark Ruffalo, Heather Thomas and John Leguizamo.

Mathew Littman, a Los Angeles-based Democratic political strategist, said Fetterman isn’t trying to say “people in the entertainment industry are bad people, but Oz is a showman, he’s not insincere and disconnected from reality.”

On Ted Nugent’s podcast last spring, Oz argued that his experience is an asset. “It’s not bad to be in entertainment. I have never lived in Hollywood. I refused to move there. I like where I live now. But basically you are learning to wage wars against the awakened ideology, against the media that has been perverted. You have to hold on. The values ​​I have are shared with my fellow Pennsylvanians, and they know I will fight for them.

The Oz campaign attempted to characterize Fetterman as a socialist, pointing to his past support for Bernie Sanders, while trying to undermine his “blue-collar tough” image. Oz called him a “populist pretender”, but also tries to make an issue of Fetterman’s absence from the campaign trail. After suffering a stroke just before the Democratic primary, Fetterman plans to hit the trail Friday at a campaign rally.

A spokesperson for the Oz campaign said Deadline, “No amount of memes or attacks will turn Pennsylvanians away from the paychecks, safety and job security that have been stolen from them by the radical Biden-Fetterman agenda.” The spokesperson added: “It has been 84 days since John Fetterman’s last public campaign. He hid in his basement, avoiding having to answer publicly for his radical and liberal views.

Borick said Oz had to be “very careful not to capitalize on someone’s personal health issues,” but said his attacks on Fetterman’s suburban upbringing and adult parental support were “probably a better way to go”.

Kathryn Cramer Brownell, associate professor of history at Purdue University and author of Showbiz Politics: Hollywood in American Politicsnoted that “the Republican Party has been better at turning celebrities into candidates, and the Democratic Party has been better at getting celebrities to fundraise”.

When he entered politics, Reagan also faced attacks that he was too style over substance, she said, but tried to turn his showbiz background into a strength. He has redefined himself as a “citizen politician” who can “connect more intimately with a constituent”.

Trump took his stardom to another level, viewing ratings as currency and his ability to perform as one of his greatest assets, especially when it came to stoking resentment. Unlike Oz, he never won an Emmy, but he also tried to use that grievance to his advantage. During one of their presidential debates in 2016, Hillary Clinton mocked Trump for accusing the Emmys of being rigged, and he replied, “I should have understood.”

“It’s a state of mind. That’s how Donald thinks, and it’s funny, but it’s also very disturbing,” Clinton said.

Oz noted that his star on the Walk of Fame is “next to Ronald Reagan’s and just down the road from Donald Trump,” but it remains open whether he shares the same political acumen with them or the same ability to connect with voters.

Fetterman is betting he can neutralize Oz fame and weather the Democrats’ midterm challenges with something different and even a little irreverent. “I don’t look like a typical politician,” he said in one of his early ad spots. “I don’t even look like a typical person.”

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