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Fetterman's lead in U.S. Senate race shrinks as Oz wins over GOP voters: poll

Gillian Mcgoldrick
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)

The U.S. Senate race between Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman and Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz is tightening.

A Franklin & Marshall College poll released Thursday shows Mr. Oz has "significantly" improved his standing in the race since its last poll was published in August.

Now, Mr. Fetterman leads him by just three points, 45% to Mr. Oz's 42%.

This increase in support can be credited to the work Mr. Oz has done to win over GOP voters and drive up negative opinions of his Democratic opponent, said Berwood Yost, the poll's director and political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

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"It was bound to happen," Mr. Yost said. "The gains that Oz is making primarily come from Republicans turning back to him."

In the August poll, 62% of Republicans said they would support Mr. Oz, compared to Mr. Fetterman, who had support from 76% of Democrats. Now, 78% of Republicans said they'd support Mr. Oz, and 80% of Democrats said they'd support Mr. Fetterman.

Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro maintained his lead over GOP state Sen. Doug Mastriano, with 51% of voters supporting Mr. Shapiro, and 37% who support Mr. Mastriano. The race is slightly closer among likely voters, with Mr. Shapiro still leading with a 10-point gap.

With just 40 days before Election Day and dismal showing at recent campaign events and in his campaign finance report, can Mr. Mastriano make up this gap?

Mr. Mastriano's campaign should look to Mr. Oz's campaign, Mr. Yost said.

"The right message with the right amount of spending can certainly move voters," he added. "Mastriano needs to do what Oz has done and that is to be out, be visible, and be willing to try to expand beyond his base. He hasn't shown a willingness to do that."

Both Mr. Fetterman and Mr. Oz are viewed more unfavorably than favorably by voters. Mr. Oz's favorability has increased by 7 points since last month, while Mr. Fetterman's unfavorability increased by 10 points: 40% of registered voters view Mr. Fetterman favorably, while 46% view him unfavorably; 34% of voters view Mr. Oz favorably, and 53% view him unfavorably.

Mr. Fetterman's shrinking lead can be credited to Mr. Oz's attacks regarding Mr. Fetterman's opinions on crime, Mr. Yost said.

Four-in-five voters are aware of Mr. Fetterman's health challenges since his stroke in May, while fewer — about 60% of voters — knew that Mr. Oz moved to Pennsylvania to run for the Senate seat last year.

Notably, Mr. Fetterman continues to lead among independent voters — a crucial group of voters that any candidate who wants to win statewide must tap into. About 5% of voters are still undecided, according to the poll. And 8% of voters support a third-party candidate.

Pollsters at Franklin & Marshall's Center for Opinion Research surveyed 517 registered voters in phone and online interviews Sept. 19-25. The poll includes the opinions of 235 Democrats, 210 Republicans and 72 independents to represent the voter registration edge of Democrats. As of Sept. 26, Pennsylvania has 4,010,795 registered Democrats; 3,469,210 registered Republicans; and 1,305,508 independent or third-party voters.

The poll has a 5.6% sample error.

President Joe Biden continues to struggle to improve his image among registered voters in Pennsylvania, according to the poll. Approximately one-in-three registered voters in Pennsylvania believe Mr. Biden is doing an "excellent" or "good" job — a lower rating than what former President Barack Obama and former President Donald Trump had at the same point in their presidency. His administration has failed to earn credit for recent Democratic policy wins, such as the bipartisan gun control bill passed this summer, Mr. Yost added.

The negative views of Mr. Biden's administration "undoubtedly" give Republicans an advantage in the upcoming midterm elections, Mr. Yost said. However, this advantage does not usually translate as much in U.S. Senate or gubernatorial races, he added.

Mr. Yost emphasized that this poll represents the public opinion of voters during the survey period. Public opinion can be shaped by current events, such as stock market changes or foreign affairs, he said.