Obnoxious candidates lose elections

By | February 1, 2023

David Frum writes:

Let’s say you’re a politician in a close race and your opponent suffers a stroke. What do you do?

If you are Mehmet Oz running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, what you do is mock your opponent’s affliction. In August, the Oz campaign released a list of “concessions” it would offer to the Democrat John Fetterman in a candidates’ debate, including:

“We will allow John to have all of his notes in front of him along with an earpiece so he can have the answers given to him by his staff, in real time.” And: “We will pay for any additional medical personnel he might need to have on standby.”

Oz’s derision of his opponent’s medical condition continued right up until Oz lost the race by more than 250,000 votes. Oz’s defeat flipped the Pennsylvania seat from Republican to Democrat, dooming GOP hopes of a Senate majority in 2023.

A growing number of Republicans are now pointing their finger at Donald Trump for the party’s disappointments in the 2022 elections, with good reason. Trump elevated election denial as an issue and burdened his party with a lot of election-denying candidates—and voters decisively repudiated them.

But not all of Trump’s picks were obviously bad. Oz was for years a successful TV pitchman, trusted by millions of Americans for health advice. The first Muslim nominated for a Senate run by a major party, he advanced Republican claims to represent 21st-century America. Oz got himself tangled up between competing positions on abortion, sometimes in consecutive sentences, precisely because he hoped to position himself as moderate on such issues.

But Oz’s decision to campaign as a jerk hurt him. When his opponent got sick, Oz could have drawn on his own medical background for compassion and understanding. Before he succumbed to the allure of TV, Oz was an acclaimed doctor whose innovations transformed the treatment of heart disease. He could have reminded voters of his best human qualities rather than displaying his worst.

The choice to do the opposite was his, not Trump’s.

And Oz was not unique. Many of the unsuccessful Republican candidates in 2022 offered voters weird, extreme, or obnoxious personas. [Continue reading…]

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