Pennsylvania Primary: Could Dr. Oz, Conor Lamb Pull Off Upsets?

Written By Evan Scrimshaw on March 23, 2022
Pennsylvania Primary election democrat republican Dr. Oz

With the Texas Primaries in the rearview mirror, the next major electoral test on the calendar is the Pennsylvania Primaries for both Governor and Senate. Two of the biggest states in the US, Texas and PA are key to looming battles for control of the Senate. Below are Pennsylvania primary PredictIt prices as well as equivalent odds.

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Pennsylvania Primary odds

Republican Primary For Governor

CandidatePredictIt PriceImplied odds
Lou Barletta$0.30+233
William McSwain$0.30+233
Dave White$0.24+317
Doug Mastriano$0.23+335

This is – to use a technical term – a complete and utter mess, and the path out of this mess doesn’t seem clear.

There are four candidates within 8% of one another and nobody’s above 20% in a recent FOX News poll. There’s little to suggest there’s a likely leader through non-polling methods. There’s no Trump-endorsed candidate and no candidate with the endorsement of Pat Toomey (the outgoing Republican Senator).

If Trump were to endorse someone, it would probably be enough to decide the winner, but Trump has been reticent to endorse in non-slam dunk races except where he has a vendetta against one of the candidates – which he doesn’t here.

Lou Barletta may be who the party rallies to, given that he has been a Congressman before and he was the party’s 2018 sacrificial lamb against Bob Casey. Barletta is the current polling leader. In a Republican primary that is increasingly based on votes from outside Greater Philly, being from Luzerne will probably help.

The other advantage for Barletta is that the two most likely pivots from him are an US Attorney nobody’s heard of, and a guy who was in DC at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

It’s not a super inspiring choice, but it’s probably Barletta.

ALSO READ: 2024 Odds for United States President

Democratic Primary For Governor

Josh Shapiro will win, and at 98 cents there’s no real point in betting it.

Primary For Senate: Democrat

CandidatePredictIt PriceImplied odds
John Fetterman$0.58-138
Conor Lamb$0.42+138
Malcolm Kenyatta$0.02+4900

This one has the best value on the board, and is arguably one of the best in any market at any price.

Conor Lamb is the right choice, in that if I were choosing which Democratic candidate I would want to be running for this seat to maximize the chances of Democrats winning the seat in November, I would pick him.

This view is not controversial among the very-online group of poll analysts and election watchers, and is also implicitly the view of many elites in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party, who have rallied around Lamb.

The slight problem for Lamb is that the only people who he has managed to convince with his campaign so far is the cadre of very-online poll watchers and the elites of the Pennsylvania party, because the actual electorate has no time for him, at all. He’s down 30% in John Fetterman’s last internal, and while a Franklin and Marshall College poll has him only down 13%, F&M don’t push their undecideds at all. And it’s not like Data For Progress’ 2020 primary track record wasn’t good – they’re good at polling Democrats.

Now, let’s say that I’m giving Data For Progress too much credit, and they’re wildly overstating the lead of their candidate, as internal polls can sometimes do. One of the ways that can be countered is if the other campaign releases their own internal, as frequently happens.

In 2020, Joe Cunningham released an internal showing him up 13% in his re-election race in South Carolina. Two weeks later, the GOP put out an internal showing his challenger up 2% to show that the narrative was wrong, and Cunningham was still vulnerable (which ended up being true as he lost). Where’s Lamb’s response?

The Lamb hype is the most obvious and most infuriating version of a common trend – too many people have invested too much, be it money or intellectual reputation – on Lamb that they can’t get out of it. Lamb’s campaign is going nowhere fast, and the surge that has been promised for so long isn’t here yet.

Lamb might be the better general election candidate, but the problem is he’s been a horrible primary candidate up to this point, and so, Fetterman will be the Democratic nominee for Senate, unless Lamb finds lightning in a bottle.

Primary For Senate: Republican

CandidatePredictit PriceImplied odds
David McCormick$0.76-317
Mehmet Oz$0.19+426
Carl Sands$0.07+1329

This one is also a misprice, but it’s not quite as attractive as the other side of the Senate race.

When thinking about this Senate race, a lot of the focus has been on Dr. Oz, and how anyone could ever think Dr. Oz could ever become a Senator. But the relevant question of this primary isn’t about Dr. Oz, it’s about David McCormick.

When was the last time someone with David McCormick’s resume won a contested GOP primary?

McCormick was a Cabinet Under Secretary under George W. Bush before going back into private equity and moving back to Connecticut. His contribution to public life in the Obama and Trump years was to sign a pro-gay marriage amicus brief in 2013 alongside almost 200 Republicans.

The list of people who signed that amicus brief – namely David Frum, but also Jon Huntsman, Steve Schmidt, William F. Weld, Christine Todd Whitman, Meg Whitman – is a graveyard of dead careers in Republican politics, a crew of NeverTrumpers who lost the argument. McCormick winning this primary would mark the first time someone with this legacy has won an open race.

Now, he is leading in the polls at this point, albeit with most of the race undecided, and he could win. But the dead confidence that he will do what nobody else in modern GOP politics has pulled off is absurd. McCormick donated to Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign in 2016, because that’s the kind of conservative he is. And those kinds of conservatives don’t win GOP primaries anymore.

Maybe Dr. Oz is such a bad candidate that McCormick can win anyway, but Oz’s chances are severely underrated by the market at this point. Throw in the chance that Trump might come in and attack McCormick for his previous disloyalty, and this race is probably a tossup.

Oz isn’t a good candidate in the traditional sense of the term, but there’s no evidence he’s a bad one, and if he can keep up with McCormick’s ad spending, the race is open to him, and the way he’s priced as a longshot is a substantial misprice.

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