'Oz's race to lose?': The path for a Pennsylvania comeback
The consensus is that the doctor is down by at least 4 points. He has to tarnish Fetterman quickly to make up the deficit.
Mehmet Oz remains behind John Fetterman in the race for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat 10 weeks until Election Day.
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But as I began to make phone calls and push emails out last week in pursuit of a frame on a story of Oz as a sure goner before Labor Day, I instead found Republicans making a coherent case that he’s still got a chance.
That may not seem surprising on its face, but there’s been a case of converging events and data points over the last few weeks that forced me to rethink my thesis.
(This is called adjusting your predisposed narrative as reporting warrants.)
Oz remains an underdog, but the next few weeks will test Fetterman’s Teflon; and whether an onslaught of concerted GOP attack ads — particularly on a comment the Democrat made about releasing prisoners — can pierce his inevitability all as he struggles to fully recover from a stroke.
From my piece for McClatchy newspapers:
Republicans now see seeds for a potential rebound against the Democratic front-runner, which is rooted in an unrelenting advertising assault on a record they see as largely unchallenged and questions about his ability to perform senatorial duties as Fetterman continues to recover from a severe stroke he suffered last spring.
“The feeling on the Republican side is Oz has gained his footing back over the last couple of weeks,” said Chris Nicholas, a longtime GOP consultant in the state.
“If Fetterman’s only up a couple that’s bad news for John Fetterman. He needed a bigger gap,” said Peter Towey, a Republican operative who managed Sen. Pat Toomey’s successful 2016 campaign. “This is going to be Oz’s race to lose come the fall. The spending is starting, people are still learning about Fetterman.”
Please read the entire piece HERE.
But the topline takeaways are these >
Republicans concede Oz is down by about 4 points — which a pair of reputable polls confirmed last week. He was badly damaged by Dave McCormick’s super PAC in the Republican primary; therefore his only real path to victory is tarnishing Fetterman as a radical and slogging to 48.5% of the vote for a slim win.
The GOP side of the spending is only catching up now to Fetterman, who enjoyed a nearly 4-to-1 ad spending advantage over the summer, distorting some of the polling on the race. Senate Leadership Fund, the Mitch McConnell super PAC, began its $34 million investment on his behalf of Aug. 19. Oz and the NRSC are now coordinating ads together. “As long as the money is there, I think Oz is going to win,” said a Pennsylvania Republican operative who would allow this predication on background but not for the record. So take that as you will. But Republicans will likely take a fresh read of the race during mid-September, to see if 3 to 4 weeks of their advertising campaign dented Fetterman and is worth more investment.
Fetterman is trying to at least slow roll committing to debates and there’s some in Oz’s camp who believe he may try to avoid them altogether. I don’t think that’s possible. Pat Toomey and Katie McGinty debated twice in 2016 and Toomey actually wanted more. So the standard is two. Anyone who has watched Fetterman’s public appearances since returning the trail since August and is honest can recognize that he’s struggling with his speech. He is not the same man he was last spring and even his campaign has acknowledged he’s undergoing speech therapy as part of his recovery. Placing Fetterman on a debate stage for an hour of live questioning and attacks will be the riskiest night of the campaign for the Fetterman campaign. One one hand, a solid showing will put to rest questions his ability to be a senator. But if he stumbles, freezes on a question or goes completely blank in response to a question, it “could shatter everything for him,” as one GOP operative put it. “You can’t run out the clock on a US Senate election in Pennsylvania,” this operative continues. Maybe, but it might be more prudent politically for Team Fetterman to try.