With less than three months until the November midterms, the Democrats’ once-bleak prospects for keeping control of Congress are starting to look a little less dire.
Though the party is still likely to lose control of the House, public polling released over the last week in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Ohio indicates that holding the Senate is well within reach, powered by fierce backlash to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, weak far-right Republican Senate candidates with anemic fundraising numbers, and the passage of at least some parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda in the climate and healthcare bill signed into law earlier this week.
In Pennsylvania, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman returned to the campaign trail last week for the first time since he suffered a stroke in May, shortly before the state’s primary. But although Fetterman has been in recovery, he’s maintained a sizable polling lead over Trump-endorsed Republican and Oprah Winfrey Cinematic Universe character and crudité enthusiast Dr. Mehmet Oz.
This week, a poll from Republican firm Public Opinion Strategies showed Fetterman with 51 percent support to Oz’s 33 percent, an 18-point lead. The same poll found Democratic gubernatorial candidate Josh Shapiro with a double-digit lead over election-denying, far-right nationalist state Sen. Doug Mastriano.
Though the poll shows Fetterman’s biggest lead thus far in the race, another poll last month from Fox News also showed him with a double-digit lead.
Oz hasn’t helped his case much this week, after he posted a deeply confusing 30-second video where he grabs a bunch of vegetables for “crudité” and implies inflation has made veggie trays cost $20, all while completely blowing the name of whatever grocery store he was in by calling it “Wegner’s.”
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette suggests it’s a mashup of Wegman’s and local Pennsylvania chain Redner’s. Oz told Newsmax Wednesday that he was very tired that day and has also mispronounced his kids’ names while campaigning. The Fetterman campaign, meanwhile, said Tuesday that it had raised more than $500,000 after the video went viral, including more than $65,000 off faux Wegners stickers that his campaign made.
Making matters worse, Oz then found himself enveloped in another Twitter war with Fetterman, this time over exactly how many houses he owns: Merely multiple houses, or an obscene number of houses. According to Oz, it’s two houses but 10 properties, an extremely relatable problem the average voter can definitely empathize with.
Over in Wisconsin, what looked to be a heavily contested primary earlier this year ended unceremoniously when three other leading Democrats dropped out and backed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes to face Sen. Ron Johnson, a vaccine skeptic and one of the most staunchly right-wing members of the GOP Senate caucus. In the first public poll released following Barnes’ primary win, he has a seven point lead over Johnson, a two-term incumbent.
The poll from Marquette University Law School also showed Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers statistically dead even with Republican Tim Michels.
Even states that have trended Republican in recent years are seeing closer Senate races than expected. In Ohio, an Emerson College poll of more than 900 likely voters found Republican J.D. Vance—who was once heavily favored to win a state Donald Trump won by nearly double-digits—with just a three-point lead over Rep. Tim Ryan, within the margin of error.
And in Florida, a University of North Florida poll of more than 1,500 likely voters released earlier this week showed Rep. Val Demings actually leading Sen. Marco Rubio, though another released yesterday showed Rubio with a double-digit lead among likely voters.
It appears that one of the key drivers in the swing back towards the Democrats is abortion. After the Dobbs decision in June, elections in districts in Nebraska and Minnesota that voted for Trump in 2020 were closer than expected, and a ballot measure that would have allowed Kansas legislators to gut abortion protections following the Dobbs decision was crushed by nearly 20 points.
An AARP poll released Thursday on the gubernatorial race in Michigan, another swing state where abortion rights are effectively on the ballot this year, found that abortion was not only the top issue for Democratic voters, but tied with inflation as the top issue for voters over the age of 50 and even ahead of Social Security and Medicare.
That poll showed Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer holding a slim five-point lead over Trump-endorsed challenger Tudor Dixon.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.