A lead if they can keep it. Polls put Dems Fetterman, Shapiro on top for now | Mark O’Keefe

It’s a long time until Election Day. Much can change — and likely will

August 11, 2022 6:30 am
U.S. Sen John Fetterman, D-Pa., (L) and Gov. Josh Shapiro (Campaign file photos).

U.S. Sen John Fetterman, D-Pa., (L) and Gov. Josh Shapiro (Campaign file photos).

John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro have received some good news with last month’s Fox News poll showing them comfortably leading their respective Republican rivals Dr. Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano.

According to the poll, Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s current lieutenant governor, was leading Oz, a celebrity surgeon, 47-36 percent in the nationally watched race for the U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, Shapiro, the two-term state attorney general, was topping Mastriano, a state senator from Franklin County, by 50-40 percent in the equally consquential race for governor.

Overall, according to the poll, Fetterman is better liked than Oz, with about half of voters having a favorable opinion of him 49-34 percent, and just over one-third viewing Oz positively 55-35 percent.

“It’s tough to underestimate the Herculean rehabilitation that Oz needs to perform on himself to make this race competitive,” said Democratic pollster Chris Anderson, whose company Beacon Research conducted the Fox News survey with Republican Daron Shaw.

“Once voters decide they don’t like you, it’s hard to convince them otherwise. Unfortunately for Pennsylvania voters, that probably means a super-charged negative campaign where Oz tries to pull Fetterman down,” Anderson said.

A big problem for Oz is consolidating GOP support.

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Only 73 percent of Republicans are favorable to him. That follows a bruising GOP primary where Oz was criticized for flip-flopping on the issues. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Oz despite the opposition of many Republicans who said other candidates supported him more.

Meanwhile, 89 percent of Democrats support Fetterman.

Conducted July 22-26, 2022 under the joint direction of Beacon Research (D) and Shaw & Company (R), the Fox News surveys included interviews with 908 Pennsylvania registered voters randomly selected from a statewide voter file. Participants took part in live interviewers on both landlines and cellphones. The total sample has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.     

Meanwhile, far more of Shapiro’s supporters (69 percent) are enthusiastic about backing him than Mastriano’s are about supporting him (49 percent), and more voters overall have a favorable opinion of Shapiro (51% favorable, 34% unfavorable) than Mastriano (38 percent-48 percent).

The results of the poll come on the heels of a June poll by Suffolk University/USA Today, which showed Shapiro with only a 5 percent lead over Mastriano.

In the same poll, Fetterman led Oz 46-37 percent.

However, the races are far from over. Both polls showed concern about rising inflation and gas prices. President Joe Biden also fared badly in both polls.

The races should be expected to tighten in the weeks ahead. Once denounced by some Republicans as too extreme to be governor, Mastriano has had some success in unifying the party around him. In fact, some of his views such as that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump have become mainstream GOP mantras.

He recently received the backing of eight GOP Pennsylvania members of Congress.     

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a spokesperson for U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-1st District, told Politico that he hasn’t yet met or spoken with Mastriano “regarding his plan for Pennsylvania, but hopes to have the chance to do so prior to the fall elections.”

The GOP members said that at a time when Pennsylvania families are struggling with gas and food prices, Democratic policies have led to “fewer jobs, higher crime rates, rampant drug addiction and less freedom” for families.

In his own statement thanking them for the endorsement, Mastriano said Pennsylvanians “have been deprived of their freedom for too long, under the harsh Democrat policies that Josh Shapiro will reinforce if elected.”

Meanwhile, Shapiro has been endorsed by a number of Republicans, including former congressmen Charlie Dent and Jim Greenwood; former state House Speaker Denny O’Brien; former Lt. Gov. and longtime state Sen. Robert Jubelirer; former state Supreme Court Justice Sandra Schultz Newman and Morgan Boyd, chairman of the Lawrence County commissioners.

According to PennLive, Greenwood, said he “cannot vote for someone as extreme and dangerous as Doug Mastriano.

Mastriano continues to fan the flames of division, doubling down on his threats to undermine our democracy and attacking anyone who dares to criticize him,” Greenwood said. “Pennsylvanians deserve better in our next governor.”

It’s important to note that Biden won Pennsylvania by 2 percentage points while Trump won it by one. So, it would be a major surprise if either race isn’t close.

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Two other factors. Trump had a slight lead in the Fox News Poll with 44 percent of those polled having a favorable view of him. That was two points higher than Biden.

The biggest difference was that 64 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of Trump while only 40 percent of Democrats feel the same way about Biden.

In the end, the race will come down to turnout. Elections always do.

Back in 2020, Trump secured 3,377,674 votes, 406,941 more than he garnered back in 2016. However, Biden won with 3,458,229 votes the most ever for a presidential candidate in the history of Pennsylvania. That was 531,828 more tallies than Hillary Clinton collected in 2016.

Can Mastriano and Oz gather anywhere near the support Trump had in 2020? And if so, can Shapiro and Fetterman top it as Biden did in 2020?

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Mark O'Keefe
Mark O'Keefe

Opinion contributor Mark O'Keefe, of Mechanicsburg, Pa.,  is the former editorial page editor of the Herald-Standard of Uniontown. His work appears biweekly on the Capital-Star's Commentary Page.