Pennsylvania Republican candidates for the midterm elections trail their Democratic opponents even as voters overwhelmingly disapprove of President Joe Biden, a Wednesday poll shows.
Television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, the state’s Republican Senate nominee, has 37% of the vote — trailing Pennsylvania Lt. Governor and Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman, who has 46% of the vote, according to the USA Today Network and Suffolk University poll. Meanwhile, 13% of respondents have not made up their minds.
“Despite expressing pessimism over their state’s economic prospects and dissatisfaction with President Biden’s job performance, Pennsylvania voters continue to support the Democratic candidate in a key race that could tip the balance of power in the US Senate,” Suffolk reported.
Oz narrowly prevailed over David McCormick, a former Bush administration official and hedge fund executive, after the latter conceded a recount. The two candidates finished within 1,000 votes of one another in the primary election. Fetterman decisively defeated Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) in his party’s race, despite suffering a stroke days before ballots were cast.
In the gubernatorial race, Republican State Sen. Doug Mastriano trails Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro, with 40% and 44% of the vote respectively. As with the Senate race, 13% of respondents were undecided.
The results are surprising given that Pennsylvanians simultaneously disapprove of President Biden by a 54% to 39% margin. More than half of the electorate says they “want their vote in November to change the direction in which Biden is leading the nation,” according to Suffolk.
“Even with Democratic party registration dwindling in Pennsylvania, both Fetterman and Shapiro are adopting a more populist approach to midterm voters and winning independents,” Suffolk University Political Research Center Director David Paleologos remarked. “Voters say they are unhappy with the economy in Pennsylvania and President Biden’s job approval, yet these particular Democrats are threading the needle thus far.”
Indeed, more Pennsylvanians have a pessimistic outlook on the economy in comparison to the 2018 midterms. The portion of voters characterizing economic conditions as “poor” quadrupled in four years — from 12% to 45%. Only 1% of voters described the economy as “excellent.”
In Pennsylvania, the unemployment rate is 4.8% while the national average is 3.6%, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.
Likewise, 48% of Pennsylvanians said that their standard of living is worse, while 17% said it is better — a significant reversal from 31% reporting better conditions and 17% reporting worse in 2018.
The poll was conducted as news broke that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 8.6% between May 2021 and May 2022, meaning that inflation once again broke four-decade records. Though wages are nominally higher, rising price levels have caused a 3% drop in real average hourly earnings.
Energy prices are driving much of the inflation for both consumers and businesses. In Pennsylvania, gasoline costs an average of $5.06 per gallon, according to AAA. When President Biden took office, the national average cost of gas was $2.39 per gallon.
In response to the most recent inflation report, President Biden pinned the blame on “Putin’s Price Hike” — a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its role in increasing global energy costs.
“High gas prices at the pump, energy, and food prices accounted for around half of the monthly price increases, and gas pump prices are up by $2 a gallon in many places since Russian troops began to threaten Ukraine,” Biden said in a statement. “Even as we continue our work to defend freedom in Ukraine, we must do more — and quickly — to get prices down here in the United States.”