The first poll conducted after the highly publicized Pennsylvania Senate debate was just released, and it reveals a lead change.
It is possible that the Pennsylvania race could well determine the next Senate majority. A Republican open seat from a politically marginal state, either major party candidate has a chance to win here next month. It is reasonable to assume, with so many other races around the country polling tight but largely in favor of the incumbent party in all but one of the other respective campaigns, that the path to the Senate majority runs through Pennsylvania.
To review, Dr. Mehmet Oz* won the Republican primary back in May but it took election officials nearly a month to determine that he had defeated former hedge fund CEO David McCormick by 950 votes from the 1.346 million ballots that were cast in the statewide GOP primary.
Democrats have well-known problems here, too. Just three days before the primary election, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the leading Democratic Senatorial candidate who would go onto win a landslide intra-party victory over US Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pittsburgh), suffered a serious stroke. He has yet to fully recover, and this debate marked the first time he would face Dr. Oz in a one-on-one format.
To facilitate Mr. Fetterman’s rehabilitation from the stroke, both campaigns agreed that the debate administrators, Nextar Media Group, would install a closed caption system where the Democratic nominee could read what was being asked of him. Immediately after the debate, the Fetterman communications director complained that the system was not working properly, which, he said, explained the Lt. Governor’s halting and sometimes rambling answers.
The Nextar spokesman retorted that the system worked properly, and that Mr. Fetterman only participated in one of the two rehearsals they offered him. He said Fetterman attending both sessions would have allowed him to better master the system.
The Insider Advantage firm tested the Keystone State electorate a day after the Pennsylvania US Senate debate. The IA poll (10/25; 750 PA likely general election voters) projects the Republican nominee, Dr. Oz, to a 48-45% edge, and is only the third survey during the entire election cycle that shows him topping Mr. Fetterman. A total of 39 polls have been conducted of this Senate race since the May 17th primary from 28 different survey research firms.
A total of 83% of the Insider Advantage poll respondents said they saw all or part of the debate either live or in post-debate news coverage. While this post-debate poll slightly favors the Republican candidate, early vote totals portend a Democratic advantage.
According to the Target Smart data organization early vote analysis, 713,029 people have already cast their ballot in the Pennsylvania election. This number represents 49.3% of the total early votes cast in 2020 and just over 10% of the total PA presidential election vote. Compared to the 2018 midterm, the current early vote number represents just over 14% of the total vote figure from that comparable election.
At this point, 73.0% of the Pennsylvanians voting early are registered Democrats as compared to just 23.3% who identify as Republican. A total of 3.6% of the 2022 early votes come from non-affiliated voters.
Though the numbers overwhelmingly favor the Democrats, the pattern is similar to that of 2020, which yielded a close general election result. With about half of the early vote cycle remaining, Democrats have so far increased 7.5% from their 2020 early vote performance, while Republicans are down 3.9 percentage points. Obviously, these numbers are a positive sign for Democrats.
It is likely, however, that the partisan gap closes to more closely align with the 2020 end total since Republicans not only vote in commanding numbers on election day, but they also tend to vote late in the early voting cycle.
Expect to see several more post-debate polls released very shortly. It is clear that the Pennsylvania race has moved into a toss-up status; hence, the closing days of this campaign are likely to be determinative.
* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle.
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