Former reality star Donald Trump shimmied his way into the White House with no political experience and altered the way candidates seek public office. Now, nearly five years later, up and coming GOP "celebrities" are following in his footsteps in an attempt to win back the Senate.
"Republicans see Trump's path as a blueprint for winning back the Senate," Politico reported. "This campaign cycle, the GOP is coalescing around former football star Herschel Walker’s bid to turn Georgia red in 2022. Republicans are also signaling an openness to surgeon and TV host Mehmet Oz’s Senate campaign in Pennsylvania, another battleground state."
“Trump winning kind of showed, ‘Hey, anybody can do this,’” said Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), a former college football coach elected in 2020. “President Trump opened the doors for a lot of people. He’s not a lawyer. He hadn’t been in politics before. He’s an outsider. So that influenced my decision. I started a trend, didn’t I?”
“The logical response to President Trump’s election would be people running who don’t have political experience, but have wide recognition,” said Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), the No. 4 Senate GOP leader. Blunt is retiring next year and two House Republicans are vying in the primary to replace him, but they're currently trailing the state's former governor and sitting attorney general.
On the flip-side, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said becoming an instant political celebrity isn't a walk in the park.
“I joke that the most expensive walk in Washington is from the House to the Senate,” Graham said. “Celebrity gives you an instant attention, but it also has a downside. You have to prove that you’re more than a celebrity.”
“These celebrities don’t come here with an interest in legislating," said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT), who began his career in the House after working in the state legislature. "They come here with an interest in grandstanding and getting TV clips, because that’s what they’ve spent their entire career doing. My worry is that as you get more people here who have no experience in cutting a deal, it makes a place that’s already pretty dysfunctional even worse."
A spokesperson for Oz said in a statement that he has "spent his career empowering patients and audiences alike to change their lives for the better” and is "an outsider." The spokesperson added that "it's that outside the Beltway, people-first mentality that Dr. Oz champions and will make D.C. more accountable when he becomes the next Senator for Pennsylvania."
Fame outside of politics "gets your foot in the door, that gets eyeballs on you, but you still got to perform,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) who has spent 18 years in the House. “Trump had that. He obviously was able to convince a large part of the country that he was the real deal."
Ryan issued a warning that "when the lights come on, you’ve got to be able to perform. People are gonna love you if you're a celebrity, and it's more romanticized. But then they take a good close look at you, and you're gonna pass muster or not.”
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