In a surprise announcement on Saturday night, former president Donald Trump gave his endorsement for Mehmet Oz in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in Pennsylvania.
Trump issued a statement announcing the endorsement just as he was beginning his remarks at an evening rally in North Carolina, where he promoted his support for Oz and referenced their shared history as television stars.
“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,” Trump said. “I have known Dr. Oz for many years, as have many others, even if only through his very successful television show.”
If Oz should triumph in the primary, it will help Trump bolster his position as a kingmaker within the GOP. Should he falter, whoever wins the nomination will be able to say the words that the 45th president hates the most – s/he did it without Trump.
David McCormick, former CEO of hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, visited Trump in Florida hoping for an endorsement or a pledge to remain neutral. McCormick, whose wife Dina was a deputy national security adviser for Trump, had positioned a number of former Trump acolytes in his campaign.
More than a few voices had the former president’s ear about Oz, including wife Melania and Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Earlier, Trump had endorsed Sean Parnell, an Army veteran who dropped out of the race after allegations of physical abuse against his wife and children emerged. Parnell has denied those accusations.
“Trump’s endorsement in the Pennsylvania GOP primary, which is already one of the nastiest and most expensive in the country, is only going to escalate this chaotic Republican-on-Republican brawl,” said Pennsylvania Democratic spokesperson Jack Doyle. “In short, tonight Trump poured gasoline on the garbage fire that is this Republican intra-party fight.”