Tell me who wins the Pennsylvania Senate race, and I’ll probably tell you who controls the Senate next year.
That statement may sound like hyperbole, but after Tuesday’s debate in Pennsylvania — which represents the Democrats’ best chance to take the seat from the Republicans — the sky is high. And while we don’t know how voters will ultimately view what they saw (or heard) about the televised event, the candidates don’t have much room for error.
Republican Mehmet Oz was closing in on Democrat John Fetterman, according to average polls. Fetterman built a seven-point lead on September 1st. On the eve of the debate, the margin was down to two points.
The move in the Pennsylvania polls is part of a trend we’ve seen in 2022 swing states. Democrats have also lost ground in the last 60 days in Arizona, Nevada, New Hampshire – which they are defending – and Wisconsin. , after Pennsylvania, is the best option to collect. In Georgia, which the Democrats also defend, they have been stable.
Democrats will likely need to win four of those six races, and right now, they have a lead in four. That includes Pennsylvania.
An interesting way to see Pennsylvania’s importance in Senate math is to look at statistical modeling from a website like FiveThirtyEight. You know if Fetterman wins, Democrats have a three-in-four chance of holding onto the Senate. If you know Oz wins, then the Republicans have a three out of four chance of wresting control of the Senate. No other state has that kind of swing associated with it.
The big question is whether either candidate will be able to pull through Tuesday’s debate to quell the doubts voters had about them.
Much has been made of Fetterman’s health following a stroke earlier this year. A CBS News/YouGov poll before the debate found that 45 percent of voters believed Fetterman was not healthy enough to serve in the Senate. In September it was 41%.
But Oz also has his weaknesses. Perhaps less talked about in the pre-debate press was whether Oz could make himself more likable after a nasty May primary. Fetterman had a net favorable rating (favourable – unfavorable) in the latest CNN/SSRS poll. Oz, however, had a net favorable rating of -17 points.
The loud issue, of course, has been part of a larger problem facing Republican Senate candidates nationwide. Republicans in most competitive swing states have net negative favorability ratings. They have been slowly improving their image in the polls, although they still prefer their Democratic opponents for the most part.
Republicans, like Oz, have been significantly helped by the fact that President Joe Biden’s approval rating is below his disapproval rating. And recent generic polls, such as the CNN/SSRS poll and the Monmouth University poll, show Republican candidates winning a larger share of voters who disapprove of Biden now than they did this summer.
This perhaps marks the irony of the Pennsylvania Senate race and the Senate race in general. Biden seems to be becoming a more important factor, even if the Senate candidates are more popular.
Biden may end up losing Democratic candidates to him, even if voters like him more than they like the GOP options.