GOP On Track For A Senate Grab In Wisconsin And Pennsylvania

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Mary Rooke Commentary and Analysis Writer
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Democrats can’t afford to lose a single U.S. Senate seat, but voters in recent polling signal a shift in support toward Republican candidates in two battleground states.

Republican Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson and Republican Pennsylvania Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz are climbing to the top of their races as voters find their Democrat opponents – Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman – “too extreme” for the Senate, Axios reported Sunday.

Johnson is polling five points ahead of Barnes in a race where 88% of Wisconsin voters described themselves as “extremely motivated” to vote in November, according to the latest Fabrizio Ward & Impact Research poll commissioned by the AARP. Although Barnes heavily carries the Democratic vote, the poll shows his numbers struggle with suburban voters, adults without a college degree and Independents.

Similarly, Johnson is up by four points over Barnes in the recent Fox News survey of Wisconsin registered voters conducted by Beacon research. Barnes dropped six points among Wisconsin voters since August 2022, when the poll showed him leading Johnson, Fox News reported. Over the same time that Barnes began slipping in the poll, voters told Fox News that Barnes was “too extreme.”

Forty-four percent of Wisconsin registered voters considered Barnes’ views too extreme, while 43% felt the same about Johnson, Fox News reported. Republican pollster with Beacon Research, Daron Shaw, told the outlet that since the last survey, Johnson has been able to control the narrative over which candidate holds the extremist views in Wisconsin, helping to bolster his poll numbers.

“Barnes’ central claim is that Johnson is an extremist who is out of touch with mainstream Wisconsin voters,” Shaw told Fox News. “Over the past month, it looks like Johnson has used Barnes’ past associations with the ‘Squad’ and his environmental views to flip the script.”

Johnson also enjoys a higher enthusiasm among voters who support him over Barnes. Sixty-eight percent of Johnson’s supporters told Fox News they were excited to vote for him in November, compared to the 50% of Barnes’ voters who said they were enthusiastically voting for him.

The race is getting closer in Pennsylvania, where Fetterman once enjoyed a double-digit lead over Oz, according to four recent polls. Republican ads claimed Fetterman was “trying to get as many criminals out of prison as he can” while he headed up the Pennsylvania Board of Pardons.

The Fox News poll shows Fetterman up over Oz by four points and Franklin & Marshall also has Fetterman up by four, while the Trafalgar Group and Emerson College both have Fetterman up by two points. (RELATED: Fetterman Being Outspent By Oz As Polls Show Narrowing Race)

Franklin & Marshall College poll director Berwood Yost argued Oz has found success attacking Fetterman on rising crime in Pennsylvania. “What’s interesting is the comparison between the two races … They weren’t that far apart in late August; both Democrats had an advantage, both Democrats were well-liked, but you can see what happens when a candidate like Oz finds a theme like crime,” Yost said.

Oz has been “able to pretty strongly attack his opponent, and you’ve seen what’s happened in that race,” Yost added. “You see what’s happened to Fetterman’s favorability ratings.”

FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 election forecast still gives the Democrats a 2-in-3 chance of winning control of the U.S. Senate in November. “This will be a 50-50 race, and it will determine control of the U.S. Senate,” one Democratic congressman told Axios.