Emerson, Trafalgar: Pennsylvania suddenly too close to call?

Source: Hot Air

Has the Pennsylvania electorate shifted rightward this past week, or is this an artifact of friendlier polling for the GOP? At one point, Democrats John Fetterman and Josh Shapiro looked like they would take the Keystone State off the tote board before Labor Day in the marquee statewide races. Two new polls show both the Senate and gubernatorial races within the margin of error, however.

Let’s start with Trafalgar, which shows Republicans Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastroiano suddenly back within competitive range of their Democratic opponents. Oz trails by a skosh less than five points in a survey with a ±2.9% MoE:

Mastroiano is even closer, trailing by less than four points in a race that at first blush looked even less competitive than the Senate race on the same ballot:

The sample may look a bit curious, but it’s not tilted against Democrats. The D/R/I is 46.7/42.7/10.6, which suggests that Trafalgar is assigning party-leaning independents to the partisan demos. Democrats still have a four-point advantage in the sample, which seems at least in the ballpark for Pennsylvania.

But if you’re skeptical of Trafalgar and its GOP roots, what about Emerson College? Their new poll has both races at about the same position too, although voters in the state predict a Democratic outcome by a wider margin:

The latest Emerson College Polling survey of Pennsylvania voters finds Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman with a 4-point lead over Mehmet Oz, 48% to 44% in the race for US Senate. Five percent are undecided and three percent plan to vote for someone else. Despite a 4-point lead on the ballot, 56% of Pennsylvania voters expect Fetterman to win the election while 44% expect Oz to win, regardless of whom they support.

Spencer Kimball, Executive Director of Emerson College Polling noted, “Three out of four urban voters support Fetterman whereas 59% of rural voters support Oz. Suburban voters are the battleground for this election, they are split 47% support Fetterman and 47% support Oz.”

In the race to replace term-limited Governor Tom Wolf, Attorney General Josh Shapiro leads State Senator Doug Mastriano 47% to 44%. Six percent are undecided and 3% plan to support someone else. Like the US Senate race, voters expect the Democratic candidate to prevail in the gubernatorial election; 57% expect Shapiro to win while 43% expect Mastriano to win.

The good news: Both polls show a much closer race than other polls have suggested. The bad news is that the two Republicans may be performing at their peak already, given their overall favorability among the voters:

A majority, 52% have a very (34%) or somewhat (18%) favorable view of the Attorney General, while 41% have a somewhat (7%) or very (34%) unfavorable view of Shapiro. This compares to his opponent Doug Mastriano, whom 45% of voters have a very (31%) or somewhat (14%) favorable opinion, while 49% have a somewhat (7%) or very (43%) unfavorable view of Mastriano.

A majority of voters (56%) have a somewhat (11%) or very (45%) unfavorable view of Mehmet Oz, while 41% have a very (18%) or somewhat (23%) favorable view of Oz. A slight plurality of voters (48%) have a very (34%) or somewhat (14%) favorable view of John Fetterman while 46% have a somewhat (8%) or very (38%) unfavorable view.

Note to self: Never talk about “crudité” in Pennsylvania. Maybe “gnosh,” but at least “veggie platter” or just “snacks.”

So what do these two polls tell us about these contests? They’re the tightest polls in the Senate race aggregated by RealClearPolitics so far, but not necessarily in the gubernatorial race. Mastroiano had a couple of virtual-tie results in June against Shapiro, and the only poll so far that showed the Democratic gubernatorial candidate out of reach has been a Fox News poll last month (50/40). Shapiro has a 4.8-point lead in RCP’s aggregate but mainly based on that Fox poll gap.

Fetterman, on the other hand, has led outside the MoE in the same polls to this point. He got a +9 from the USA Today poll in June that only had Shapiro up by four, and a +11 from Fox last month. It seems possible that voters are starting to create a kind of equilibrium between the two races, one that will likely benefit Oz — but perhaps not quite as much benefit as he needs. The more the GOP can make the midterms about Joe Biden, however, the more that Oz will benefit by getting closer to Fetterman in the first place.

These polls could be outliers; we’ll know more after Labor Day. But if the Senate race in Pennsylvania really is tightening already, then Democrats are not going to be happy about how Joe Biden’s Academia giveaway will impact that movement going forward.