- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The GOP’s path to flipping the Senate this fall is narrowing.

In its latest rankings, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics has shifted the Senate races in Arizona and Pennsylvania from a toss-up to “leans Democratic,” citing “candidate weaknesses for Republicans in both states and what appears to be a not-as-bleak environment for Democrats.”

Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona is running against Blake Masters, a political newcomer, and Democratic Lt. Gov. John Fetterman is running against GOP nominee Mehmet Oz in Pennsylvania. 

Mr. Oz and Mr. Masters received former President Trump’s endorsement before emerging victorious in their primaries.

Democratic wins there would leave 49 Senate seats for Democrats and 49 for the Republicans, and just two toss-up races in Georgia and Nevada, where Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Catherine Cortez Masto are seeking re-election. There are 35 U.S. Senate seats up for election in the 2022 cycle — 14 seats currently held by Democrats and 21 held by Republicans. 

“The end of the summer has been kind to Democrats. President Joe Biden’s approval rating, though still clearly weak, is improving, and House generic ballot polling shows a political environment that, at least at the moment, is roughly neutral,” the Center for Politics’ Kyle Kondik and J. Miles Coleman say in their updated rankings. “Gas prices, perhaps the easiest-to-notice indicator of the broader inflation problem, have fallen sharply from their spike earlier this summer, though one cannot predict with any level of certainty where gas prices will be on Election Day.” 

“Democrats, hoping to make this election more of a choice than a referendum, are benefiting from some damaged Republican candidates in several key races as well as the emergence of abortion as a key issue in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision — and perhaps also from a continued focus on a particularly visible former president, Donald Trump,” they say.

Mr. Kelly, a former astronaut who won his seat in a 2020 special election, entered the election cycle as one of the most vulnerable Democrats and has shown a knack for staying out of the headlines.

Mr. Masters, a venture capitalist and author, has been on the defensive about his views on abortion after scrubbing “I am 100% pro-life” from his campaign website after securing the nomination.

The race for retiring GOP Sen. Patrick Toomey’s seat in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, has been a battle of personalities between the charismatic, unconventional Mr. Fetterman and Mr. Oz, a well-known doctor and television personality.

Mr. Fetterman has cast Mr. Oz as a carpetbagger who is out of touch with everyday voters, noting his opponent’s large portfolio of homes and trolling him repeatedly on social media. Mr. Oz has countered that Mr. Fetterman is soft on crime, hiding from the public after suffering a stroke over the summer, and ducking one-on-one debates.

Mr. Fetteman has opened a 7-point lead over Mr. Oz, according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls. Mr. Kelly, meanwhile, holds a 6-point lead over Mr. Masters. 

• Seth McLaughlin can be reached at smclaughlin@washingtontimes.com.

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