Just about every sign is pointing towards Republicans having a fruitful Election Day in three months. And yet, many of the party’s candidates in key Senate races across the country are struggling.
The latest evidence comes in the form of new battleground state polling from Fox News. In the Pennsylvania Senate race, Democratic nominee John Fetterman led Republican nominee Mehmet Oz by a whopping 11 points, 47% to 36%, in Fox’s latest survey. And in the Georgia Senate race, Fox’s poll had Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock at 46% and Republican Herschel Walker at 42%.
What’s the problem for the GOP in those races? Simply put, a lot of voters – including a notable number of Republicans – do not like Oz or Walker.
More than half (55%) of registered voters in Pennsylvania view Oz, a celebrity doctor, unfavorably, while just 35% view him favorably, according to Fox’s polling. By comparison, Fetterman, currently the state’s lieutenant governor, is viewed favorably by 49% of voters and unfavorably by 34%. Perhaps the most alarming number for Oz: only 67% of Republicans hold a favorable view of him.
Walker isn’t in quite as rough of shape, but his favorability rating is also under water: 43% of Georgia voters view him favorably, and 48% view him unfavorably. Warnock breaks about even at 48% favorable and 47% unfavorable. Broken down by party, 82% of Republicans hold a favorable view of Walker, while 93% of Democrats hold a favorable view of Warnock.
In both states, the Democrats are managing to outpace their Republican opponents even as President Joe Biden’s favorability rating sits just north of 40%.
These are far from the first warning signs that have come up for Oz and Walker. Oz has faced scrutiny about his residency from the start of his campaign. For Walker, there have been revelations he had three children with women he was not married to, questions over his past business ventures and repeated verbal gaffes. Plus, both are raising far less campaign cash than their Democratic counterparts.
And these are far from the only Senate candidates Republicans are concerned about. In Ohio, a state Biden lost by 8 points in 2020, GOP nominee J.D. Vance was outraised by a 9-1 margin in the second quarter and has made a long string of controversial comments.
The GOP’s Senate headache could get even worse after next Tuesday’s primaries. In Arizona, which will host one of the country’s marquee Senate races this fall, Blake Masters has embraced former President Donald Trump’s unfounded election fraud claims. Republicans also fear that scandal-plagued former Gov. Eric Greitens would put deep-red Missouri’s Senate seat in play if he emerges as the party’s nominee.
One commonality among all these Republicans, with the exception of Greitens: they are first-time candidates backed by Trump. The risks that come along with that profile are becoming increasingly apparent.
The Point: Given the state of Biden’s approval rating and the economy, the political environment may ultimately trump Senate Republican candidates’ flaws. But those flaws are only making the party’s path to the majority more treacherous.