Voices: From Dr Oz to Herschel Walker, here are the five Senate races to watch

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Dr Mehmet Oz campaigning in Pennsylvania (AP)
Dr Mehmet Oz campaigning in Pennsylvania (AP)

The midterm elections are less than five months away, and while most polling shows that a narrow plurality of voters prefer that Republicans control Congress, especially in light of soaring inflation and gas prices, the likely makeup of the Senate is still completely unclear. As the midterm year enters the third quarter, here are the five Senate races most likely to flip.

Georgia: Last week, The Daily Beast revealed that former University of Georgia running back Herschel Walker has three children he had not previously disclosed, alongside his son Christian – this despite his chastising absent Black fathers. This comes alongside multiple allegations of domestic violence (which Walker has attributed to problems with his mental health). But Walker – often considered one of the greatest college football players of all time – could still beat Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, a prolific fundraiser and outspoken voting rights advocate who won a special election in January 2021 and is now running for a full term.

A new poll from Eastern Carolina University showed Warnock and Walker are in a dead heat race with 46 per cent apiece, with only 6 per cent of voters undecided. In an environment where Republican Governor Brian Kemp is running for reelection, that likely puts Walker at an advantage — but the survey was conducted before the revelations of Walker’s children were published.

Arizona: Earlier this month, Donald Trump endorsed venture capitalist and author Blake Masters, whom his former boss Peter Thiel is bankrolling. Masters has pushed the Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. He has also pushed the conspiracy theory that the January 6 riot was set up by the FBI.

Alayna Treene of Axios recently reported that all of this endeared Masters to the former president, while Trump believes Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich hasn’t pushed his lies about the election hard enough. The August 2 primary will determine who will face off against Senator Mark Kelly, who, like Warnock, won a special election to finish the term of the late Senator John McCain. Polling is scant but one from OH Predictive Insights shows Kelly, a former astronaut and the husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords, is tied in a generic Republican poll.

Nevada: Despite the fact President Joe Biden won the Silver State, he won it by a much smaller margin than Barack Obama did in 2008 and even in 2012. And as Democrats shed support among rural and working-class Latino voters, the Senate race is considered a bellwether on who has a better shot at winning them in 2024.

On Tuesday, former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt won the GOP primary thanks partially to the support of Trump. He’ll now face off against Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, the first and so far only Latina Senator.

The race also has some salience since it’s the first one since late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid died. As Jazmine Ulloa wrote in The New York Times, the so-called “Reid Machine” that turned Nevada from a state that voted for George Bush into a state with two Democratic Senators is not nearly as strong as it once was. Cortez Masto lacks the outsize persona that Reid did (and, frankly, so does the grandson of the late “Tall Paul” Laxalt, the former governor and Senator). Nevada is a notoriously difficult state to poll. But polling from earlier this month shows Cortez Masto holds a strong lead with Latinos.

Pennsylvania: Former television host and physician Dr Mehmet Oz won a tight primary last month after a bruising primary against businessman Dave McCormick, thanks in no small part to Trump’s endorsement. But a USA Today and Suffolk University poll last week shows the former television host – who has faced questions about whether he lives in Pennsylvania or New Jersey – that he hasn’t recovered from the bruising primary.

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman – who easily beat two challengers last month shortly after he suffered a stroke – has a nine-point lead against Dr Oz and is actually outpacing the state’s Democratic nominee for governor, sitting Attorney General Josh Shaprio, who only has a four-point lead against Republican state Senator Doug Mastriano. As NBC News reported earlier this month, Fetterman’s health scare has some Democrats worried that they might need to field a replacement. But that was before the poll. If Fetterman pulls off a win, it would flip the seat held by retiring Republican Senator Pat Toomey from red to blue.

North Carolina: While many people paid attention to the downfall of wayward Representative Madison Cawthorn after Senator Thom Tillis dropped a code red on him, the GOP primary to replace retiring Senator Richard Burr was just as bloody. Trump endorsed Ted Budd, previously a no-name congressman, instead of former Governor Pat McCrory. McCrory in turn accused Budd of sympathizing with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Conversely, state Senator Jeff Jackson dropped out of the Senate race and endorsed former state supreme court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley. That consolidation helped Beasley – who, if she wins, will become the first Black woman Senator elected from North Carolina. A new poll of likely voters shows that Beasley holds a small four-point lead against Budd.

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