Pennsylvania is giving us a view into how an impending Supreme Court ruling gutting Roe v. Wade could cost Republicans precious votes in November. In both the gubernatorial and Senate races, Republicans nominated candidates who have taken extreme positions on abortion: state senator and MAGA extremist Doug Mastriano, and TV huckster and Trump endorsee Dr. Mehmet Oz.
Mastriano is a Christian nationalist who has said he wants to end all abortions with no exceptions, "Period." Oz, who backs exceptions solely in cases to protect the life of the mother (not rape or incest), was forced further right on the issue by a hotly contested GOP primary that became a referendum on abortion in the final month of the campaign. After the last GOP Senate debate, Oz told reporters that "life starts at conception," a reversal from his position in 2019.
Enter recent polling in Pennsylvania from USA Today/Suffolk University showing that abortion is a top-three issue for women in both races, and both Democratic candidates are winning women handily.
The survey, taken June 10 to the 13, suggests Keystone State women have different expectations from a governor (which they associate more with the economy) than a U.S. senator (where they appear to want action on abortion at the federal level). Thus, abortion is women’s top issue in the Senate race and the number 3 issue in the governor’s race. Below is the share of women who said abortion, the economy, and gun control were their top issues in both races along with where those issues rank for men and all voters.
PA Sen/PA Guv: Top Issues for Pennsylvania Women
|Gun control (Sen/Guv)
For men, the economy gets top billing in both races while abortion is in single digits as a priority. Gun control is important to both groups in both races and second only to the economy for men. (Also notable: Crime only registered in single digits among both groups.)
In the survey, both Democrats lead their GOP opponents, though Democratic Senate nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is in a more enviable position than Democratic gubernatorial nominee Attorney General Josh Shapiro. Fetterman is currently up 9 points over Oz, according to the survey, while Shapiro enjoys a slimmer 4-point advantage over Mastriano. Both Democratic candidates also enjoy a sizable advantage among women, with Fetterman besting Oz by 23 points among women and Shapiro outpacing Mastriano by 16 points.
Voter preferences in PA Senate/PA governor's race
As Bulwark writer Brent Orrell noted, "The news for Democrats is a lot better than they have any right to expect" given inflation and President Joe Biden's numbers.
Of course, anything could happen between now and November. But as a snapshot in time, this poll suggests this year's midterms remain a historical wild card.
There’s also the simple reality that Fetterman is an unusually good non-traditional candidate with widespread appeal. In many ways, the fact that Shapiro, a very solid statewide candidate, is only running 4 points ahead of Mastriano, a MAGA extremist on every level, is worrisome.
But the survey raises the prospect that candidates, issues, and the extent to which they animate voters might matter at least as much or, in some cases, even more than the national climate. If that were to bear out in November, it would be good news for Democrats, who are facing down tough historical trends.
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