Where does Dr. Oz — and his reputation — go from here?

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PHILADELPHIA — No such thing as second acts? Mehmet Oz has pulled several: After starting out as a cardiothoracic surgeon, he’s enjoyed success as a teacher, inventor, author, television celebrity, questionable product — and, most recently, as the Donald Trump-backed victor in A Republican primary for an open US Senate seat in Pennsylvania.

And then he lost. Only by four percentage points, but a loss nonetheless.

It was a rare and very public failure for a man whose life was marked by success in many arenas. Oz left a lucrative television career, celebrity medical practice and home in North Jersey and poured $27 million of his own wealth into the campaign, only to be mercilessly mocked online as an intruder with a dubious recipe for crudites — and in Pennsylvania, for using that word.

At the age of 62, what will Oz do next? The campaign did not respond to requests for comment. In his concession statement, Oz offered few ideas other than: “I hope we begin the healing process as a nation very soon.”

A return to surgery and teaching medicine seems unlikely. In the spring, Oz ended his longtime ties to Columbia University, where he is now professor emeritus and special lecturer at the medical center, titles used for retired faculty members. Columbia officials declined to comment further.

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Money may not be the main motivator, although he is extremely adept at accumulating wealth. According to his campaign financial disclosure report, Oz is worth between $100 million and $422 million.

Dr. Oz’s Trump-infused Senate run is coming down to the wire

Political insiders note that Oz’s candidacy was hampered by running on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, a 2020 election denier who supported abortion bans and who lost by 14 points. And there’s Oz’s embrace of Trump, whose candidates fared poorly in Pennsylvania on Tuesday.

Does Oz’s second act in politics have a second act? If so, where and how will he perform it? “There are certainly chances for him to be a leader in Pennsylvania if he chooses,” said Republican media strategist Charlie Gerow.

“Oz can spend the next few years here, volunteering and becoming part of the community to overcome that outsider identity, which more than any other factor has been his biggest weakness,” said Christopher Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion .

Even then, it may be difficult for Oz to match the preference of Pennsylvania voters for politicians whose first acts took place in the Commonwealth – no matter how many meat presses, Wawa-and-Sheetz photo ops and chicken/cheese/pierogi dinners the famous doctor is willing to eat. The outsider status is “just hard for him to overcome,” Borick said. “If there was no one else in line, maybe.”

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But there is someone other in line. If Oz decides to run another Senate in Pennsylvania in 2024, when Three-term incumbent Democrat Robert P. Casey Jr. ‘s seat is up, he could very well face an expensive, drawn-out rematch of this year’s GOP primary against hedge fund CEO David McCormick, who barely beat Oz and who remains popular among the Republican leadership. Here’s a thought: Could Oz try to keep his political career going in… New Jersey?

“It’s not impossible,” Borick said. “But you can just imagine the Democratic ads targeting him for the move.”

He could return to talk show television, which made Oz famous enough to run for office in the first place. Still, he might find the environment a little colder than when he camped.

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Daytime television is about mass appeal, and Oz now has “a big problem because he went all MAGA,” says Matthew Baum, a communications professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“Doctors are more trusted among Americans. He kind of threw in the towel when he became a strong partisan politician,” Baum said. “It’s kind of a fundamental violation of that trust. He definitely crossed that line.”

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Oz’s views on abortion, a top issue in the midterms among Democratic voters, could be especially alienating to would-be consumers of Oz content. “His health brand is dead,” said Red Seat Ventures partner Christopher Balfe, a media consultant who specializes in conservative outlets. “You don’t think of Mehmet Oz as a doctor. You think of him as a Republican.”

“Once you’ve kicked yourself out as a Republican, there’s no going back. The mainstream of daytime television is closed to him,” Balfe said. “He must choose another path.”

There are, of course, areas of American television where celebrities can lean into their politics. “One component of conservative media is older Americans,” Balfe said. “There could be some interest.”

Oz may try to become a fixture on conservative channels like Fox News, where he has appeared regularly on Sean Hannity’s show. “He’s obviously a compelling television personality,” Balfe said. “He could do well with a podcast.”

“I can even suggest a new venture for Oz,” Baum said. “It wouldn’t be easy to regain the trust of non-conservatives, but in the massive ecosystem of television, he could have a very lucrative career with one foot in politics, one foot in entertainment.”

For a man with Oz’s ability to court advertisers and audiences, there are many possible next performances. Even if they are not in Washington.

Again, Oz could be anywhere.


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