Pennsylvania Senate Odds: Key Senate Race In The Keystone State

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on November 2, 2021 - Last Updated on November 8, 2021
2022 pa senate odds

The most genuinely up in the air Senate race of 2022 is in the Keystone State, where Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is retiring after two terms in the Senate. 2022 PA Senate odds reflect the uncertainty of who will be next to fill this Senate seat.

With two competitive primaries and a general election generally viewed as a tossup, it is a rarity for 2022 and therefore a state where lots of money can be made if handicapped correctly.

2022 PA Senate Odds: Democratic Primary

CandidateNov. 2 PriceEquivalent Odds
John Fetterman$0.69-223
Conor Lamb$0.28+257
Malcolm Kenyatta$0.04+2400
Valerie Arkoosh$0.03+3200
Sharif Street$0.02+4900
All Other Candidates$0.01+9900

Let’s start with the Democratic Primary, where Congressman Conor Lamb is running against Lieutenant Governor and frequent MSNBC guest John Fetterman for the party’s nomination. (There are other people running for the seat, but the winner will be either Lamb or Fetterman.)

Both titans of Western Pennsylvania, Fetterman is the favorite in this race because of his statewide job and the fact that he was a frequent guest on cable news in the interminable wait between Election Day and the networks calling Pennsylvania for Joe Biden.

A straight talking everyman, Fetterman was a small town mayor before winning the 2018 Lieutenant Governor Primary, and then winning on Governor Tom Wolf’s coattails. He is a progressive in the Sanders ilk, but he has more credibility with the center of the Democratic Party than some progressives because of his staunch support of Biden.

Meanwhile, Lamb came to Congress in a shocking 2018 special election win in a rural, Pittsburgh-adjacent seat, before new maps shifted him into a suburban Pittsburgh seat for 2018 and 2020. His 2020 performance was underwhelming, leading some to question whether he is the best candidate to win.

Fetterman’s biggest liability is a scandal from his time before the Lieutenant Governorship, when he engaged in racial profiling against a Black teenager while he was mayor. He has (kind of) apologized for it, but how much this will matter in the primary is unclear.

Fetterman has been leading in the very few polls we have of this race, but he has a name recognition advantage on Lamb and none of the big players in Pennsylvania politics have gotten behind a candidate. For a race between two Western Pennsylvania candidates, the race will be decided in the southeast of the state, where the increasing concentration of Democrats are.

Lamb is working the state party better, and he is laying the ground to get the endorsements for when the primary kicks into gear. If (or more likely, when) he gets those, he will hope to ride his more moderate image to the votes of moderate social liberals in the Philadelphia collar counties, which will be crucial to victory.

I know Lamb is the (considerable) underdog here as of now, but the basis for that is laughable – a Fetterman internal poll and a pair of tiny samples from other pollsters. And we’ve seen moderates rise in Congressional primaries closer to Election Day before – longtime readers will remember when we grabbed Shontel Brown as an underdog in the Ohio 11th this summer.

Lamb should win this primary, and this price is absurd.

2022 PA Senate Odds: Republican Primary

CandidateNov. 2 PriceEquivalent Odds
Sean Parnell$0.48+108
Jeff Bartos$0.31+223
Carla Sands$0.12+733
Kathy Barnette$0.02+4900
All Other Candidates$0.01+9900

On the other side of the aisle, the GOP primary is also interesting, with the Republican candidate who ran Lamb close in 2020 the current favorite against the man who lost to Fetterman for the Lieutenant Governorship in 2018.

Jeff Bartos is a real estate investor and long-time Philly based GOP donor who ran and lost in 2018 against Fetterman, and therefore has shown an ability to win statewide primaries in the past. Bartos is running as a form of Trump continuity candidate, which might appeal in a state where Trump has been a boost to GOP fortunes.

Sean Parnell is an Army vet and a supposed rising star of the Pennsylvania GOP, who was heavily promoted in 2020 despite the perceived unelectable race he was in. His performance, limiting Lamb’s margin to a squeaker, has been a boon to his fortune, and he is now the favorite to represent the GOP.

Parnell is also a good candidate for Trump supporters, and the military background is an asset with GOP primary voters. He also has the Trump endorsement, which usually is enough to win a GOP primary (but not always).

Bartos is a credible challenger but I don’t see the path for him to take down Parnell, given Parnell has the Trump endorsement and a much more logical and easy to make electability argument. It’s Parnell’s race to lose.

2022 PA Senate Odds: General Election

PartyNov. 2 PriceEquivalent Odds

Because of the uncertain nature of the primaries, we have to look at different scenarios for the general election – and namely how each Democrat would do if they were to win the primary and were therefore facing Parnell.

The case for Democrats being in a good spot with Lamb against Parnell is that they literally saw this race in the 17th last year and Lamb won – and, honestly, he won while running a bad campaign. Yes, the 17th is slightly more blue than the state at whole, but Lamb did win.

The question of whether Lamb’s a good candidate or not comes down to whether Lamb’s 2020 track record is more indicative of his true political talent than his two home run races in 2018, where he wildly outran what a generic Democrat would do. Did Lamb become a worse candidate between 2018 and 2020, or did he believe the polls and the forecasters and think he was in a safe race, and therefore take his foot off the gas? It’s almost assuredly the latter.

If it’s Lamb, I think Democrats start as small favorites, given Pennsylvania is a Biden state and Lamb should be able to do a bit better in the rural and regional areas of the state while not substantially under running Biden in the wealthy white suburbs that were the reason Biden won in 2020 while Hillary Clinton lost in 2016.

If it’s Fetterman, it’s a less rosy picture for Democrats. Fetterman’s theory is that he can wind back the clock to an era where Democrats can do a lot better than Biden or Clinton with rural white voters, but the problem is that the trends that have caused that movement aren’t just happening in Pennsylvania, or just in America.

Fetterman is trying to stitch together a coalition that doesn’t exist anymore, and even if he succeeds in the rural areas, he will do so at the cost of the suburban gains Biden has made. Fetterman’s campaign sounds good in theory, but he runs the risk of being too much of a normal Democrat to genuinely make up ground in the rural center of the state while being too off putting for the social liberals who have only started voting Democratic in recent years.

Final Thoughts

If you want to bet Democrats to win, you’re hoping for Lamb to win the Primary. If it’s Fetterman, the race is a pure toss-up that Sean Parnell could easily win. If it’s Lamb, Parnell becomes the clear underdog.

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