Pa. Senate poll: John Fetterman takes commanding lead among Dems; Dr. Oz and David McCormick in tight battle for GOP top spot

Julian Routh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (TNS)
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in 2019. (Tim Tai/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

While Republicans remain split over their own candidates, more than half of all the registered Democratic voters who were surveyed by Franklin and Marshall College in late April said they plan to vote for John Fetterman in the U.S. Senate primary, according to a poll released Thursday.

Fetterman, Pennsylvania's lieutenant governor, leads U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb 53% to 14% in the new poll, which surveyed 357 registered Democrats from April 20 to May 1. State Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta registered in third place at 4%, with Jenkintown Councilwoman Alex Khalil trailing the pack at 1%.

This represents a 12-point bump for Fetterman since the last F&M poll, conducted in early April when he was at 41%. In that time frame, Lamb dropped 3 points and Kenyatta didn't move the needle.

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In the GOP field for Senate, there's no clear frontrunner in the new poll of 325 registered Republicans, but Dr. Mehmet Oz appeared to get a slight bump in the last month from former President Donald Trump's endorsement.

Oz polls at 18% among registered Republicans, with former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick trailing closely behind — within the margin of error — at 16%. Conservative commentator Kathy Barnette saw the biggest bump in comparison to the pollster's previous survey, jumping to 12%. Trailing the pack were former U.S. ambassador Carla Sands at 5%, businessman Jeff Bartos at 2% and attorney Sean Gale at 1%.

The new poll registered small bumps for Oz and McCormick in comparison to the early April poll, of 2 points and 1 point, respectively. Barnette was at 7% in the previous survey.

The heavily contested race for the Republican nomination for Pennsylvania governor has a clear hierarchy. State Sen. Doug Mastriano is in the lead with 20%, followed by former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain at 12%, former U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta at 11% and businessman Dave White at 8%.

Former U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart and Dr. Nche Zama checked in at 2% and the rest — State Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale and political consultant Charlie Gerow — at 1%.

On both sides of the aisle, there's room for movement in the final two-week stretch before the May 17 primary.

The saving grace for Lamb and Kenyatta's prospects in the Democratic primary, at least according to this poll, is that 22% are still undecided about who they'll choose — and 51% of those who named a preference said they could change their mind about their choice before Election Day.

Of the Republicans surveyed, 39% were undecided in the Senate race, and 57% of those who favor a candidate believe they could opt for someone else down the line.

In the race for governor, 34% said they were undecided and 53% — of those who chose — signaled they were not firm in their cited choice.

The new F&M poll is the first test of the U.S. Senate race after a handful of big developments.

For Democrats, it's the first poll that's given time for the criticisms against Fetterman to sink in; the first televised debate was April 22, at the beginning of this polling period, and saw Fetterman face scrutiny over his electability.

Lamb and Kenyatta started to more forcefully levy those critiques against Fetterman in early April.

In the new poll, Fetterman's favorability is at 67% among registered Democrats with Lamb at 46%. But more than a third of the sampled Democrats — 39% — said they don't know enough to have an opinion about Lamb, compared to 21% who said the same about Fetterman.

As for the Republicans, it wasn't until the very end of the last polling period that Trump endorsed Oz, seen by insiders as a potential game-changer in the primary. The time frame of the new F&M survey began more than a week after the endorsement.

Among the Trump faction of GOP voters in the new survey, Oz and Barnette lead with 19% and 18%, respectively. McCormick, meanwhile, leads the traditional GOP faction at 28%.