I’m not sure what to say about this poll except that it’s testing my theory that no swing state is truly off the board for Republicans when inflation is at a 40-year high and a Democrat is in the White House.
New poll conducted by GOP firm Public Opinion Strategies for Pittsburgh Works Together shows big leads for Dems in the PA Senate and governors races. Fetterman up 18 points over Oz; Shapiro up 15 points over Mastriano pic.twitter.com/K3lo8YME03
— Alex Isenstadt (@politicoalex) August 16, 2022
If that were a Democratic internal poll we might dismiss it as propaganda, conducted with a thumb on the scale for Team Blue. The fact that it’s a Republican poll complicates things. If this isn’t an accurate snapshot of the race, what’s the angle in showing Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in a deep hole as the home stretch of the midterm campaign approaches? And before you say “to encourage Republican voters to turn out!”, bear in mind that (a) few Republican voters are paying attention to polls in mid-August, (b) to the extent that they are, a poll like this might demoralize them rather than create a sense of urgency, and (c) these numbers aren’t wildly out of line with the last public poll of Pennsylvania.
Remember that one? Published at the end of July, it had John Fetterman leading Oz by 11 points in the Senate race and Josh Shapiro leading Mastriano by 10 for governor. Another survey published the same day also had Fetterman up 11 and Shapiro up by 13. How hard is it to believe that their leads have grown in the three weeks since?
Especially when you consider how lopsided the spending in this race has been. Fetterman’s campaign has spent $4.4 million thus far on TV and digital ads compared to around $1 million by Oz and the NRSC over the same period. In the gubernatorial race, Shapiro has spent $12 million going negative on Mastriano while Mastriano has spent, ah, nothing on television advertising. An optimist might take that in and say, “Okay, but that just proves that the Democrats’ leads are being driven by the ad gap. Once Republicans start spending this fall and close that gap, the race will tighten.”
To which a pessimist says: Right, but by how much? From a 15-point Democratic lead to a 10-point one? How deep of a hole will these two clowns have to climb out of?
What few ads Oz has put out haven’t been barnburners either. Nate Hochman of NRO watched this one and wondered if Oz is a serious candidate.
He’s the most radical candidate in the country. pic.twitter.com/Z2jr8yowos
— Dr. Mehmet Oz (@DrOz) August 15, 2022
Portraying Fetterman’s ideological extremism as scary rather than cartoonish would work better. Tactfully drawing attention to the fact that he’s having difficulty communicating following his stroke might also help soften the Democrat’s lead. But we’re quickly reaching a point in the polling where the margin might become prohibitive, forcing the RNC and NRSC to make hard decisions about which races nationally are worth investing in. GOP officials are already eyeing Pennsylvania warily and plotting alternate paths to a Senate majority on the assumption that Fetterman will win. If he’s still up by double digits in a month, the prudent thing for Republicans to do might be to cut bait on Oz and to plow the money that was reserved for PA into Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire.
Since Aug. 1, the NRSC has cut ad buys in the battleground states of Pennsylvania ($7.5 million), Arizona ($3.5 million), Wisconsin ($2.5 million) and Nevada ($1.5 million), according to the ad tracking service AdImpact. Separately, a Democratic source tracking advertising buys estimated roughly $10.5 million in cuts by the NRSC since the first of the month…
“People are asking, ‘What the hell is going on?’” said one Republican strategist working on Senate races. “Why are we cutting in August? I’ve never seen it like this before.”…
Another Republican strategist referred to the recent cuts as “unreal,” noting that the NRSC had not eliminated any ad time in New Hampshire, where there won’t be a GOP nominee until mid-September — and where there’s no clear frontrunner in the meantime.
The NRSC’s excuse for this is that they’re simply replacing direct ad expenditures by their group with coordinated ad expenditures between their group and GOP candidates’ campaigns, which will allow them to secure lower ad rates. They’re not going dark, just stretching their money a bit further. But Politico notes that the amount of money that was earmarked for canceled ads was “significantly more” than the amount that’s now being earmarked in coordinated ad spending. That is, the NRSC may have decided to hold back on committing more money to Pennsylvania and Arizona at the moment because the polling for Oz and Blake Masters hasn’t looked great. If either candidate starts to make a move in surveys this month then more ad money can be committed. If they don’t then the NRSC may be preparing to leave them for dead and focus on other swing states.
Fetterman is now a 67 percent favorite to win in FiveThirtyEight’s model while Shapiro is an 85 percent favorite to defeat Mastriano. In theory, the very odd couple of Oz and Mastriano might be able to help each other at the polls, with Oz bringing out normie Republican voters who may reluctantly vote for Mastriano and Mastriano bringing out cranks who may reluctantly vote for Oz. But in practice the two candidates aren’t promoting each other, presumably because each views associating with the other as bad for the “brand” he’s trying to build among the electorate. Result: Populist Republicans seemingly continue to shun Oz while centrist Republicans continue to shun Mastriano, producing landslide margins for each of their Democratic opponents.
Here’s the latest unhelpful news for Oz out of Pennsylvania, by the way. It’s an open question at the moment whether John Fetterman is physically and cognitively fit to serve in the U.S. Senate, yet he’s still en route to crushing this guy.