In the midterm battleground of Pennsylvania, the Cook Political Report (CPR) has again changed its evaluation of the U.S. Senate contest playing out — often with memes and in the mud — between Republican political newcomer Mehmet Oz and current Democrat Lt. Governor John Fetterman.
The political handicappers at CPR had changed their rating for Senate race in PA to "Lean Democrat" on August 18 but noted that "Republican spending against Democratic nominee John Fetterman had yet to ramp up" while leaving the door open for another change in the rating toward Oz before election day.
On Tuesday, CPR walked its rating back through the door to make the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania a "Toss Up."
"In conversations with several GOP strategists and lawmakers — who a month and a half ago had begun to put the Keystone State in the loss column — this has emerged as a margin-of-error race that they once again see winnable," the Cook Political Report announcement explained. "Republicans and Democrats alike admit the race has tightened and that Pennsylvania could be the tipping point state for the Senate majority."
Citing recent polling from FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics that showed the race tightening and Oz with momentum after Fetterman took hits from mainstream and conservative outlets over his refusal to debate before the final days of the campaign, CPR says "it is becoming clear many Republican voters are coming home to Oz."
Meanwhile, "Fetterman's vote share has decreased — and as we saw in polls in 2020, for Democrats especially, it's been more instructive to look at that number as a possible ceiling," CPR's analysis continues. "A Suffolk University/USA Today poll out today, for example, shows Fetterman ahead of Oz by six points (46%-40%)" compared to "several polls in late August and early September showed Fetterman above or hovering just below 50 percent," showing "a clear downward trend."
“The more interesting number, as Amy Walter has previously written about, is that Fetterman's vote share has decreased — and as we saw in polls in 2020, for Democrats especially, it's been more instructive to look at that number as a possible ceiling” https://t.co/tmJBwEvvlc— Josh Kraushaar (@JoshKraushaar) October 4, 2022
Clearly, the messaging being used by the Oz campaign and Republican groups is working: hammering Fetterman and Democrats for being soft on crime, an area in which Fetterman's work with Pennsylvania's parole board is particularly damning. CPR notes that the new Suffolk/USA Today poll shows "those attacks are having an effect" driving a 17-point increase in Fetterman's unfavorables since June.
In their consideration of myriad factors at play in the U.S. Senate battle in the Keystone State, CPR concludes that they "can no longer say that Fetterman has a clear advantage in the race."