New polls show Oz leading Fetterman after Pennsylvania debate

Pennsylvania 2022 midterm election

Mehmet Oz and John Fetterman (Associated Press-Matt Rourke/Gene J. Puskar)

(NewsNation) — Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz has pulled ahead of Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race, according to two polls that were conducted after this week’s hotly contested debate.

Oz now has a 53% chance of winning the race compared to Fetterman at 47%, according to Decision Desk HQ’s forecasting model. Just over two weeks ago, the same model showed Fetterman with a 70% chance of winning and Oz with a 30% chance.

The shift in odds toward the former TV personality and retired heart surgeon is the result of two polls released this week.

Among 750 likely voters, 47.5% said they would vote for Oz if the election were held today, compared to 44.8% who said the same for Fetterman, according to a new Insider Advantage poll. Independents broke overwhelmingly for Oz, with 65.9% supporting the former TV personality versus 22.5% for Fetterman.

About 3.6% of respondents said they were undecided.

A separate survey of 1,000 likely voters from Wick Insights saw a similar margin in Oz’s favor: 47.6% of respondents said they would vote for Oz if the election were held today, versus 45.9% who would choose Fetterman. In that poll, 3% of those surveyed said they were undecided.

The latest polls are the first indication that Fetterman’s performance at Tuesday’s debate may be weighing on the minds of voters. The Democratic candidate, who suffered a stroke back in May, struggled to articulate his policy positions and sounded incoherent at times.

But pollsters NewsNation spoke to cautioned against reading too much into the debate and said more surveys will be required to understand its impact.

“In a large state like Pennsylvania, trying to quantitatively identify what percentage of a poll shift is due to one particular news event is almost impossible,” said Kiel Williams, a senior data scientist with Decision Desk HQ.

Williams noted the broader shift toward Republican candidates in recent weeks and pointed out Oz’s growing support even before Tuesday’s debate.

The margin in other battleground states has also narrowed over the past month.

Ten days ago, incumbent Democrat Sen. Raphael Warnock had a 70% chance of defeating Republican Herschel Walker in Georgia. Now, Warnock has a 53% chance.

In Nevada, the odds for the Senate seat are nearly even between Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto (50.8%) and Republican Adam Laxalt (49.2%).

The shift toward GOP candidates in battleground states is not entirely unexpected, given President Joe Biden’s low approval rating, Williams said.

“Throughout the year, Democrats were somehow defying the laws of political gravity,” he noted.

Now, the political winds have shifted and Senate races in swing states are expected to be as close as ever.

In Pennsylvania, more than 550,000 ballots had already been cast before Tuesday’s debate, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. As of Friday, the total number of mail-in and absentee ballots returned has grown to more than 792,000.

Of the ballots returned in the Keystone State so far, more than 70% have come from registered Democrats. Registered Republicans account for about 20% of the mail-in, absentee votes as of today.

More than 6.8 million Pennsylvanians voted in the 2020 general election and about 60% did so in-person on Election Day. It remains to be seen whether this year’s midterms will see a similar turnout.

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