Senate GOP Feels Another Trump Effect: The Rise of Celeb Candidates

Senate GOP Feels Another Trump Effect: The Rise of Celeb Candidates

“Trump kind of won the show, ‘Hey, anyone can do this,'” said Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), a former college football coach elected in 2020. “President Trump opened the doors to 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’ve started a trend, haven’t I?” ‘ Tuberville joked.

Missouri’s Roy Blunt, the No. 4 GOP Senate leader, took the well-traveled route to the upstairs room — he spent nearly a decade and a half in the House before moving upstairs, with leadership credentials to boot. But Blunt said he’s not surprised that Trump’s background has inspired more celebrities to run for office.

“The logical response to President Trump’s election would be for people who have no political experience but who have broad recognition to run for office,” said Blunt, who will retire next year. Two House Republicans are vying to replace him in the primary, but they are currently trailing the former state governor and incumbent attorney general.

Running as a household name certainly has its perks, especially in an expensive statewide race. In addition to the obvious name recognition, they can raise money — or use their own personal fortunes to fund their campaigns — more easily than their competition, while claiming the “outsider” status often coveted in congressional runs. And with the wide reach of cable talk shows, already well-known candidates can interact with voters quite easily without paying for ads.

On the other hand, celebrity candidates may not be used to the intensive screening and media scrutiny that comes with being a candidate.

“I joke that the most expensive walk in Washington is from the House to the Senate,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), another one-time member of the House. “Celebrities give you instant attention, but it also has a downside. You have to prove that you are more than a celebrity.”

Walker, for example, faces questions about his marriage history and academic credentials in the Georgia Senate race. Oz must battle skepticism about his promotion of scientifically questionable remedies on his show, not to mention his Pennsylvania residency, given his New Jersey years.

The famous doctor has emphasized that he grew up in the Philadelphia area, voted in the state and attended graduate school there. Oz has also defended his medical advice. He told a Senate panel that he has given the products he promotes to his family, but also said he acknowledged “they often don’t have the scientific knowledge to present as fact.”

There’s also the huge knowledge gap that virtually any candidate coming to Congress through entertainment or sports would face when it comes to writing legislation. Longtime lawmakers warn that the resulting erosion of policy competence could lead to further partisanship in a chamber already bitterly divided.

“These celebrities don’t come here with an interest in legislation. They come here with an interest in greatness and getting TV clips because that’s what they’ve been doing all their careers,” said Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who also began his career in the House after a while. in state law.

“My concern is that as you get more people here who have no experience in closing a deal, a place that is already quite dysfunctional is going to get even worse,” Murphy added.

That shift from Hill deal-cutting practice could be dramatic in the next Congress: All five Senate Republicans who announced their retirement next year are former members of the House, with collective decades of bipartisanship under their belts.

And the Senate GOP conference could see several new members without any legislative experience. In addition to Oz and Walker, author JD Vance is setting up his own campaign in Ohio.

An Oz spokesperson said in a statement that he has “spent his career empowering patients and the public alike to change their lives for the better” and that he is “an outsider.” that dr. Oz champions and makes DC more responsible when he becomes Pennsylvania’s next senator.”

Fame outside of politics “gets your foot in the door, it draws your eyes, but you still have to perform,” said Representative Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), his party’s current frontrunner in his party’s primary to secure that Buckeye State Senate. to be laid next year.

“Trump had that. He was clearly able to convince much of the country that he was the real deal,” said Ryan, who spent 18 years in the House. But he warned that “when the lights come on, you have to be able to perform. People will love you if you’re a celebrity, and it’s more romanticized. But then they take a good look at you, and you’re going to freak out or not.”

Democrats have also seen famous candidates on their side of the aisle.

Most recently, there was billionaire Mike Bloomberg, whose bid for the presidency failed, but not before he got approval from Hill Democrats. (Bloomberg was also mayor of New York City.) Perhaps the most famous examples are former Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), a Saturday Night Live comedian turned political activist, and professional basketball player turned Senator Bill Bradley from New Jersey.

And some Democratic candidates have achieved rock star status by repeatedly running for senior office; former Rep. Beto O’Rourke recently launched a campaign for Texas governor after two consecutive unsuccessful bids for the White House and Senate.

“It can be hard to get out of a position where people like you and say kind things to you… and then when you become a candidate and your words are parsed and it really matters… how do you deal with that? can go, I think, important,” noted Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) “I’m not suggesting that a football star or a TV personality can’t, but I do think sometimes it’s just harder for them.”

Of course, Walker and Oz’s candidatures don’t quite mean that celebrity will become a requirement for GOP Senate viability. GOP Representatives Vicky Hartzler and Billy Long attempt to replace Missouri Blunt as Rep. Ted Budd (RN.C.) has Trump’s backing in the race to retire Senator Richard Burr (RN.C.). And First Republican Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee and Roger Marshall of Kansas are all former members of the House.

Despite his own roots in the House, Cramer said he has come to appreciate leading Senate candidates for at least one reason: “Getting elected to Congress isn’t the greatest thing that ever happened to them. And I quite like that.”

“There is no doubt that Donald Trump has broken the mold,” Cramer added. “I don’t know if he’s the new mold, but he definitely broke the old one.”

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Rachel Meadows

Rachel Meadows

Trending topics news writer who enjoys cooking, walking her dog and travel.

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