Dr. Oz, an ex-Bridgewater CEO and the ‘gentle giant’: How the Pennsylvania Senate race could shake up national politics

Pennsylvania primary voters are preparing to go to the polls on May 17 to decide who will represent the Republican and Democratic parties in a crucial November election that could determine which party will occupy the U.S. Senate for the next two years.

Democrats see the race as their best chance of getting a seat now in Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, and a victory there would give the party a cushion, as it must defend the seats of Democrats in swing states like Georgia. Nevada and Arizona.

With polls suggesting Republicans are likely to take control of the House next year, maintaining control of the Senate could be key if President Joe Biden hopes to continue moving forward on his agenda through court appointments federal and key regulatory agencies.

Who will be the Democratic candidate?

Polls show that Pennsylvania Gov. John Fetterman has important leadership that has grown as the election approaches, according to Berwood Yost, director of the Franklin and Marshall College Opinion Research Center in Lancaster. Pennsylvania.

“He’s in a very comfortable position to win the Democratic primary,” Yost told MarketWatch. “He is well-liked among Democratic voters, has raised a lot of money from small donors and has spent more than his opponents. You want to be in the shoes of John Fetterman. “

The first thing most Fetterman voters will notice is their appearance. At 6 feet 8 inches, Fetterman has visible tattoos, a bald scalp, and a beard on his chin that the local press called “the gentle giant.” He says he only wears a suit, and often shuns it in favor of Dickies and Carhartt work clothes, which exudes an authenticity that has made him a political celebrity in his state and beyond.

“This has always been one thing with Fetterman: wearing shorts, not wearing a dress, and having physical features that are not commonly seen in politics,” said Daniel Mallinson, a public policy professor at Penn State Harrisburg.

Fetterman has made use of his platform, promoting signature issues such as the legalization of recreational marijuana POTX,
and criminal justice reform that he believes is not only progressive, but also attracts a large number of Donald Trump voters to the many rural counties of Pennsylvania.

Who will be the Republican candidate?

While Fetterman appears to have a firm hold on the Democratic nomination, “there’s no clarity on what will happen to the Republican race,” Yost said.

David McCormick, the former billionaire CEO of the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, and Mehmet Oz, the famous television surgeon and physician, remain at the forefront of the race according to the latest polls.

Christopher Nicholas, a veteran Harrisburg-based Republican political consultant, said in a telephone interview that President Trump’s recent endorsement of Oz should be an advantage for his candidacy, although this has not yet appeared in public career surveys.

“It will have some impact, but we can’t see it right away because you have another well-funded candidate,” McCormick said. The former hedge funder has been flooding Pennsylvania voters with ads that accentuate his roots in the western part of the state and attack Oz for previous positions he has taken on fracking and abortion, among other issues.

Oz has the backing of Trump to push him to the limit, Nicholas said, especially in the face of growing opposition from the state party and other high-profile Republicans who argue that Trump erred in his support.

The former president organized a rally in western Pennsylvania on Friday night to head to Oz, where he argued that McCormick is a “liberal Republican from Wall Street” and said Oz has “the best chance of winning. “and” will fight to the end. ”

Also read: Trump-backed JD Vance wins Ohio Republican Senate primary

Can Democrats take that seat in November?

One of the best predictors of success in the midterm elections is the poll on whether respondents would prefer Democrats or Republicans to control Congress, and since last fall, those figures have been trending toward the GOP. Both the average FiveThirtyEight and RealClearPolitics polls show that Republicans have a three-percentage-point lead over that score, bad news for Democrats hoping to be elected to Congress in the fall.

In Pennsylvania, voters are particularly pessimistic about the state of the nation and the economy, with a Thursday poll by Franklin and Marshall showing that only 25 percent of registered voters feel the state is “going in the right direction.” “, while 43% say it is worse. economically today more than a year ago.

Yost argues that if there is a Democrat who can challenge the odds during this cycle, Fetterman could be. The lieutenant governor has demonstrated the ability to attract voters from the western and rural parts of the state, he said, while his deep Pennsylvania roots will contrast favorably with Oz or McCormick, who recently resided in other states.

And while midterm elections often depend on public approval from the incumbent party, this correlation is less strong when it comes to Senate races, where the quality of an individual candidate can make a difference. , said Yost.

He added that Oz and McCormick have invested a lot of money in the race by attacking each other, and this draws parallels to the 2018 gubernatorial race, when eventual Republican candidate Scott Wagner was never able to recover from a brutal fight in the primaries.

What is at stake in the election?

Democrats’ weak control over the Senate may depend on this race, especially if they can’t defend one of their seats in Arizona, Georgia or Nevada. Maintaining control of the Senate could be key to the Democrats’ regulatory agenda, as key roles in regulatory agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission remain unoccupied and require Senate confirmation.

Biden could also be unable to confirm judges on the federal bench without a Democratic majority in the Senate. Democrats successfully confirmed 42 federal judges last year, most in the first year of a president in office since John F. Kennedy, and that number rose to 58 last month, according to researcher Russell Wheeler. visitor to the Brookings Institution.

Meanwhile, if another vacancy were filled in the Supreme Court, history suggests that Republicans would be very unlikely to confirm a replacement appointed by a Democratic president.

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