At 9:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, Mehmet Oz did something that used to be de rigueur: He called John Fetterman to concede the Pennsylvania Senate race.
And then he released a statement saying, in part: “We are facing big problems as a country and we need everyone to put down their partisan swords and focus on getting the job done. With bold leadership that brings people together, we can create real change.”
Which is gracious. And kind. And the sort of thing that was once an accepted part of campaigns – especially losing ones.
But that is not the moment we are in. Especially for candidates, like Oz, who were endorsed and promoted by former President Donald Trump.
Trump has spent the last two years insisting, falsely, that the 2020 election was stolen from him and making that election denialism a litmus test for candidates who want his support.
The former president endorsed Oz in a crowded Republican primary race in the spring.
“This is all about winning elections in order to stop the Radical Left maniacs from destroying our Country,” said Trump in announcing the endorsement.
When the race was close between Oz and businessman Dave McCormick, Trump counseled Oz to follow his 2020 playbook. “Dr. Oz should declare victory,” Trump said via a tweet truth on his Truth Social site. “It makes it much harder for them to cheat with the ballots that they ‘just happened to find.’”
Oz did not take that advice, choosing instead to wait it out until the final count showed that he had won – narrowly. (How novel!)
Oz has always been a bit of an odd fit in Trump’s coterie of endorsed candidates.
Unlike many of those candidates, Oz has not claimed the 2020 election was stolen, though he did say there was “definitely fraud.” At an April debate in which he came under considerable fire from his Republican opponents as insufficiently conservative, Oz said: “We cannot move on from the 2020 election.”
Later on, Oz said he would have voted to certify the results of the 2020 election if he were in office. “I would not have objected to it,” Oz said in September.
And while Oz and Republicans sought to highlight Fetterman’s health for much of the general election, Oz focused on bringing “balance” to the Senate in the final days of the race – casting himself a moderate voice who could navigate between the extremes within the two parties.
Oz’s decision to formally concede, call his opponent and release a statement urging cooperation after a hard-fought campaign stands out in today’s Republican Party. Which is a real pity.