ATLANTA — Trailing in the polls, Stacey Abrams is trying to tie her GOP rival, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, to the least popular Republican on the ballot: Senate hopeful Herschel Walker.
During their final debate on Sunday, Abrams said Kemp ‘refuses to defend us, and yet he defended Herschel Walker, saying he didn’t want to be involved in his running mate’s personal life’, referring to women’s allegations which Walker had lobbied. let them have an abortion. “But he doesn’t mind being involved in the personal lives and personal medical choices of women in Georgia.”
In Pennsylvania, Democrat John Fetterman, clinging to the slimmest of leads in recent polls, is trying to tie Republican opponent Mehmet Oz to Doug Mastriano, the far-right gubernatorial candidate behind Democrat Josh Shapiro by a wide margin.
“You ride with Doug Mastriano!” Fetterman interrupted to say at one point in their only debate last week, when Oz was talking about abortion as a matter between “women, doctors, local political leaders.” The next morning, Fetterman ran an advertisement arguing that “Oz would let politicians like Doug Mastriano ban abortion without exception”, and called it “too extreme for Pennsylvania”.
Abrams and Fetterman have a common strategy: They seek to attract Americans who plan to vote for candidates from different parties for high office. In Ohio, Republican Senate candidate JD Vance and his allies are taking the same approach with voters considering backing GOP Gov. Mike DeWine and Vance’s opponent, Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan.
Ticket dispatchers play a prominent role in the 2022 polls, but a key unanswered question is whether most of them will persist in bifurcating their ballots or end up going all-in with one party.
“It’s an acknowledgment that your brand isn’t as strong as someone else in your party,” said Jeff Horwitt, a Democratic pollster who co-heads the NBC News poll. “You see a lot of voters going home, supporters going home to their corners in the last days of an election.”
Recent history suggests that ticket dispatchers are dwindling at a time of heightened tribalism. In close races, the decisions made by these voters have huge stakes in the battle for control of Congress and the governor’s mansions, and the candidates are looking for every opportunity to push voters to their side less than a week before the polling day.
“So if you’re 5 points behind the other statewide candidate in a race, politically it makes a lot of sense to strengthen that connection,” Horwitt said. “It forces voters to re-evaluate how they feel about the opponent…I think that’s a smart way to go.”
For months, pollsters and activists have found voters in Georgia who support both Kemp and Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. The same goes for the Shapiro-Oz crosses in Pennsylvania.
According to Fox News polls released Wednesday, Warnock is only 1 percentage point ahead of Walker, while Kemp is more comfortable 6 points ahead of Abrams; Fetterman led Oz by 3 points (within the margin of error), while Shapiro led Oz by 16 points.
In Fetterman’s case, “That means a vote for Oz is a vote for Mastriano,” Horwitt said.
Shapiro said he was proud of the ticket distributors who supported him.
“My focus is on defending Doug Mastriano — by far the most dangerous and extreme candidate in the country,” he said on CNN on Wednesday. “We have seen a long history of ticket sharing across Pennsylvania. I’m proud that so many Republicans have joined Democrats and Independents in supporting me. »
Meanwhile, Republicans running for Senate seats in Georgia and Arizona are more focused on cementing support from their base and conflicted center-right voters — or so-called soft Republicans — in those former states. reds who abandoned the GOP under former President Donald Trump.
In Georgia, Walker’s internal polls and other GOP polls shared with NBC News show Warnock doing better among Democratic voters than Walker among Republican voters. Walker’s campaign and an affiliated super PAC, called 34N22, are trying to drive home his grassroots voters and the smaller number of Republican-leaning voters who currently support libertarian in the race, Chase Oliver.
Stephen Lawson, a senior adviser to 34N22, said the majority of voters the super PAC is trying to persuade and push through digital, TV and mail advertising are soft Republicans, who he says number about 360,000.
In Ohio, a national group has made a six-figure investment targeting split-ticket Republicans who may be supporters of DeWine, who is seeking re-election as governor, but also of Ryan. Vance advisers have played down the ticket split prospects, even as polls show their nominee and Ryan in a statistical stalemate and DeWine leading his Democratic opponent by more than 18 points.
After campaigning with national MAGA figures like Reps. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., and Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., during the primary and welcoming GOP firebrands like Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, on the trail with him earlier this fall, Vance has more recently campaigned with the popular, mild-mannered DeWine.
Ryan, meanwhile, is looking to withdraw Republican support in a state that Trump has twice carried by 8 points. Before this week’s Monday Night Football game in Cleveland between the Browns and the Cincinnati Bengals, Ryan attended a party with Bernie Kosar, the revered former Browns quarterback who has been active in local politics in the GOP. Ryan’s endorsement by Kosar cost him a gig at a Republican fundraiser last week.
Along with Walker, who says his accusers are lying and denied knowingly paying for an abortion, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters also fares worse with Republican voters than Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly.
Sean Noble, a veteran Republican consultant involved with super PAC Saving Arizona, said the GOP is also turning its attention to soft Republicans.
“There is a concerted effort to target Republican households where someone voted in 2018 but another family member did not. And we try to tell them, ‘get a family member to vote,’” Noble said, estimating that they reach 110,000 of those households through text, cellphone and digital ads.