Quoting Michael Buffer, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
The Penn Progress super PAC is warning prospective donors to Conor Lamb’s U.S. Senate run that he is trailing frontrunning lieutenant governor John Fetterman by 30 points.
A memo obtained by POLITICO says that in order for Lamb to have a path to the Democratic nomination, the public view of Fetterman must change. The analysis – Lamb is more centrist than Fetterman and when voters finally understand that – and they will – it may be too late.
In the most recent Franklin & Marshall College poll, a small sample of respondents were asked, “Do you think of yourself as a progressive Democrat, a centrist Democrat, or something else?” Forty percent answered progressive, while 35 percent selected centrist – a change of two percent to the positive for the former and negative for the latter since October.
But is it all about ideology? Not according to Paul Waldman at the Washington Post. He says that Lamb is “pretty indistinguishable from a thousand congressional candidates who have come before: clean-cut, solid resume, just the kind of person you picture when you think ‘congressman.’”
Compare that to the 6-foot-8 Fetterman who has tattoos and is known to sport shorts in the winter months. Compare and contrast, indeed!
The PAC document points out the testing of negative messaging against Fetterman, including that he is a “dangerous radical who proudly calls himself a socialist,” and “supports far-left policies like a $34 trillion government takeover of healthcare.”
Might his more progressive positions make him vulnerable to the more centrist Lamb? Possibly. His long record of concern for people could also attract voters from distressed parts of the Commonwealth. As Waldman says, “some people love Fetterman because of who he is, and some people don’t.”
According to POLITICO, the slide deck did not make any mention of testing what is considered to be one of Fetterman’s biggest liabilities: an incident in 2013 when he pulled a gun on an unarmed Black man as mayor of Braddock. Fetterman said he thought the man might be fleeing a shooting, and that he did not know the race or gender of the man at the time.
“This race is wide open,” said Lamb Campaign Manager Abby Nassif-Murphy in a statement to The Daily Beast. “The biggest question on the minds of Pennsylvania Democrats is who can win in November, “When they find out that John Fetterman has real baggage and has never beaten a Republican, they have serious questions.”
“Conor hasn’t been able to gain ground with Democrats, so he’s decided to run like a Republican and use Fox News talking points to attack a fellow Democrat,” said Fetterman spokesperson Joe Calvello to POLITICO. “This is a desperate move from a campaign that hasn’t been able to raise the money on its own, and hasn’t broken through with anyone except for some political insiders.”
“All of the polling makes me think Fetterman’s lead is real, but that doesn’t mean it’s firm,” wrote J.J. Balaban, a Democratic strategist from Philadelphia who has worked on Senate races, to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “But it will take money to displace him and I’m more skeptical now … that Lamb has the resources to lift himself up and pull Fetterman down.”
State rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, a third major candidate in the race, has impressed many but may be priced out of contention with just $285,000 cash on hand, compared to Fetterman’s $5.3 million and Lamb’s $3 million.
It is apparent that Lamb has discovered that reminding everyone that he is the moderate candidate is taking him only so far. It may not have a simple solution, but it does appear that the gloves are coming off in the race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in the Keystone State.
Let’s get ready to rumble, indeed.