To quote Buffalo Springfield: There’s something happening here … what it is ain’t exactly clear — yet, anyway, although the trendline in Pennsylvania looks promising for Mehmet Oz. Two new polls show the Republican edging into the lead in the Senate race, not coincidentally after Democrat John Fetterman’s disastrous debate performance last week.
The first Oz +1 poll comes from Susquehanna, which explicitly credits the televised debate as the inflection point in its polling:
US SENATE RACE: Dr. Oz Reverses 5-Point Fetterman Lead from August SPR Poll, Now Leads 47.6% to 46.6%. The race for Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat is now a 1-point race, with Republican Mehmet Oz leading Democrat John Fetterman 47.6% to 46.6%. One percent of likely voters chose another candidate while an additional 4% are still undecided. When undecided voters who are “leaning” toward a candidate are included, Oz leads 48.7% to 48.1%. Both margins are well within the poll’s +/-3.7% margin of error.
Oz is currently benefiting from late momentum from a successful TV debate performance last week against Fetterman. In the poll, among voters who say they were influenced by the TV performance of the candidates (138 of the 700n, or 20%), Oz leads 69:24. Moreover, voters who say they have made up their minds on a candidate in the last 7 days are breaking for Oz 68:32. This makes sense given Fetterman’s early lead over Oz after the divisive GOP primary. Some in the media have suggested the debate was a non-issue, but this poll suggests otherwise.
Media outlets and analysts jumped to that conclusion almost before the debate came to a painful end last week. It’s not hard to see why, if you assume that the media has aligned itself with Democrats generally and Fetterman specifically, a conclusion that became inescapable after Dasha Burns’ treatment for reporting what everyone ended up seeing in the debate. The media wanted people to reject what they had just seen and heard for themselves to keep Oz from benefitting from the supremely idiotic decision by Team Fetterman to put him on stage in the debate.
It’s not just the debate driving Oz’s rise, though:
The current political climate continues to favor Oz, while voters galvanized on the abortion issue favor Fetterman. Most voters (57%) say inflation and the economy are the top issues that will influence their vote, and among them Oz is favored 52:42 over Fetterman. Abortion voters however, rated by 34% as the top issue and technically the second highest, favor Fetterman by a 2:1 margin, or 64:32. However, “crime” voters, whom the Oz campaign has made the focus of in their negatives against Fetterman due to his votes as Chairman of the Parole Board, are voting for Oz 56:38. This represents a reversal from our August poll when “crime” voters favored Fetterman before the anti-crime ads against Fetterman began in earnest. Crime, rated by 33% as “most important”, nearly ties abortion as the second highest issue and our national polling shows voters trust the GOP more than the Democrats on handling crime.
The economy and crime will outweigh abortion in Pennsylvania, just as it will everywhere else. Why? Because people live with inflation and the impacts of crime every day in their homes and communities. For most people, abortion is largely irrelevant to their daily lived experience. That doesn’t make it an unimportant issue or value, but voters deal with practical matters first. If inflation and crime weren’t at decades-long highs at the moment, abortion likely would matter more — but they are, and so it doesn’t matter much in this cycle.
Emerson also reports a one-point advantage for Oz, and also sees the debate as an inflection point:
The latest Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey of Pennsylvania voters finds Mehmet Oz with a two point lead over Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, 48% to 46% in the race for US Senate. Four percent are undecided. With undecided voters’ support accounted for, Oz holds 48% and Fetterman increases one point to 47%. Since September, Oz has increased five percentage points and Fetterman has increased one. A majority of Pennsylvania voters (54%) expect Oz to win the election while 47% expect Fetterman to win, regardless of whom they support. …
Ninety-three percent of voters have heard, seen, or read, a lot (68%) or a little (25%) about the recent Pennsylvania Senate debate between John Fetterman and Mehmet Oz. Seven percent have heard nothing about it. A plurality of voters (44%) say the debate improved their opinion of Mehmet Oz, while 25% say it worsened their opinion of Oz, and 31% say it made no difference. Half of voters (50%) say the debate worsened their opinion of Fetterman, 20% say it improved their opinion of Fetterman, and 31% say it made no difference.
Kimball noted, “Of those who say they have heard, seen, or read a lot about the debate, Oz leads Fetterman 55% to 41%. Among those who have heard, seen, or read only a little or nothing about the debate, Fettterman leads 56% to 28%.”
That’s two polls in a row showing significant post-debate movement in PA. However, those aren’t the only pollsters putting Oz in front. An Insider Advantage survey that concluded just after the debate also puts Oz up by three, and a smaller Morning Call poll has the race tied at 47.
Here’s the trend in the RCP aggregation over the past month, and what it looks like when RCP adjusts for prior pollster accuracy (a three-month timeline on the latter):
There’s something happening in Pennsylvania, all right … and it does seem pretty clear. And the linkage to the debate looks more and more clear as well.