After a week of wild polls, and more than a month after the midterms were thrown into a state of uncertainty by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs, the Republicans are seemingly in a spot of bother in two key Senate races they need to win if they want to have a solid chance of winning control in the Senate. The GOP now trails in the odds with Herschel Walker in Georgia and Dr. Oz in Pennsylvania.
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Georgia Senate Odds
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Here, the GOP is failing in a way that, unlike Pennsylvania, was very easily predictable (and predicted) the entire time.
Herschel Walker, the former Dallas Cowboys and University of Georgia star running back, has absolutely no credentials to run for the Senate except for that four year run in Georgia 4 decades ago, and he is proving that he is an unsuitable candidate every time he speaks.
Walker, whose most recent contribution to the public discourse was to claim that passing an ambitious climate agenda would send our “good air” to China and replace it with “bad air”, is unfortunately not of the mental acuity to handle a Senatorial run.
He can’t handle follow-up questions or off-the-cuff remarks, he is unable to effectively advocate for his agenda (which he never articulates), and he is also credibly accused of misconduct towards his ex-wife.
Walker’s theoretical appeal was that culturally conservative, older Black voters who don’t vote for traditional, white Republicans would potentially vote for Walker, either out of his skin color or nostalgia for the last (pre-2022) Bulldogs national title team.
Unfortunately, Democrats in the state are running incumbent Senator and literal Reverend Raphael Warnock. So religious, culturally conservative Black voters are perfectly well represented by the Democratic option.
To win back Georgia, Republicans either need Black turnout to fall off a cliff or for white, Biden-Ossoff voters in the north Atlanta suburbs to go back to vote for the GOP again. The reason Brian Kemp is going to cruise to victory in the Governor’s race is that a good chunk of those Biden-Ossoff voters are going to vote for him over Stacey Abrams.
The problem for Republicans is a credibly accused abuser who can’t get a sentence out without a gaffe and who doesn’t care at all about climate policy is probably about as bad of a candidate for these well off, socially liberal voters who want their Republicans to vote for tax cuts and basically do nothing else as you can offer them.
Walker is going to underrun Trump in the Atlanta suburbs and exurbs considerably, which is compounded by the fact that the suburbs and exurbs will make up a bigger share of the total statewide vote in a midterm than the November 2020 General Election.
Walker is going to see lower rural turnout than he needs because Trump isn’t on the ballot, worse results than Trump in the suburbs because of his record and statements, and Georgia Democrats are running an all-Black ticket, which means Black turnout will be exceedingly high, choking off his last avenue to win.
The GOP tossed away a winnable Senate seat by nominating a candidate whose unfitness for the job he’s running for is so obvious as to make him underrun the other key figure on the ballot by nearly 10%. Herschel was about as horrible a candidate as the GOP could have run, and they did it.
Pennsylvania Senate Odds
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I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the Pennsylvania Senate race this year is the wildest Senate race in the US in a least a decade, and it’s honestly impossible to decide where to start with this.
Dr. Oz – who does not live in Pennsylvania and is actively registered to vote in New Jersey – is down, on average, 8% in the polls as the Republican nominee to keep this Republican held seat. Every poll has his favorables deeply underwater, with 55% in a recent Fox News poll having a negative opinion of the TV doc.
He is running against Lieutenant Governor and everyman Pennsylvanian John Fetterman, who is recovering from a stroke he suffered days before the May primary which held him off the campaign trail for nearly two months.
This campaign has featured a cameo from Jersey Shore star Snooki, a video from E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt, and a Fetterman digital strategy that has found every piece of evidence of Oz either claiming New Jersey or Los Angeles as his actual home.
The “Oz is actually from New Jersey” trolling has even extended to Fetterman having a Democratic Congressman from New Jersey nominate Oz to the New Jersey Hall Of Fame – and, of course, the Congressman in question is the Congressman who represents the address Oz is registered to vote at in New Jersey.
The New Jersey of it all – and the North Jersey, in particular – has had the impact of knocking the Oz campaign off its game and off message, and it’s clearly working to some degree. Unlike a lot of neophyte political candidates who have low approval ratings, like Oz, do so because they have a high amount of undecideds. Right now, everyone knows who he is, and nobody’s buying what he’s selling.
What’s obvious at this point is that the 8% lead is too big – polls which have Democrats up big in the Midwest are an occupational hazard at this point, and a lot of the lead is because 2020 Trump voters are undecided after a nasty primary.
What is also obvious is that Republicans would not be giving quotes about having a path to a Senate majority without Pennsylvania if they weren’t in deep, deep trouble.
The problem for so many in the commentariat, and this includes yours truly, is that we collectively thought that Fetterman was a worse General Election candidate than Conor Lamb, who Fetterman demolished in the Democratic Primary.
That same sense of what is and isn’t electable is leading to a lot of “but is it enough?” teeth gnashing from Democrats, burned by 2016 and 2020. It’s an understandable reaction, but it’s not the correct one.
Republicans are terrified that they got stuck with Oz, whose political skills seem non-existent at this point, and Democrats have nominated a candidate who has beaten expectations before. Generally speaking, first time political candidates do not run stellar campaigns when the chips are down, and unlike many rookies, Oz is a national name that people already know and (mostly) dislike.
Oz isn’t dead by any means, but there’s been a willingness to give him all the benefit of the doubt to create exceedingly complicated paths to victory. He might win, but it’s really hard to make the case he’s anything close to favored right now.