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Fox News is in attack mode after its own polling showed Republican nominee Mehmet Oz trailing Democratic nominee Lt. Gov. John Fetterman in the Pennsylvania Senate race.
The July 28 Fox News poll showed that Fetterman has an 11-point lead over Oz. Additionally, according to the poll, “just 35 percent of those backing Oz say they support him enthusiastically, while 45 percent have reservations. For Fetterman, 68 percent back him enthusiastically and only 18 percent hesitate.” These results, combined with data showing that Fetterman is outraising and outspending Oz, could spell disaster for the GOP hopeful. However, since this polling, Fox has demonstrated it’s a reliable partner to help Oz try to reset the race.
The network has long had a cozy relationship with Oz. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Oz became one of Fox News’ most prominent voices by downplaying the severity of the virus and promoting unproven therapeutics. Then during the GOP Pennsylvania primary, Oz received support and a platform from Fox News’ Sean Hannity, whom Oz later thanked in his victory speech. While not all Fox News anchors supported Oz during the primary, even holdouts like Laura Ingraham are now giving Oz friendly prime-time interviews to boost his campaign.
Fox’s attacks against Fetterman have increasingly focused on dispelling the idea that he is a populist by painting him as an elite who is focused on pushing far-left policies. The network has also highlighted the race even beyond focusing on the two nominees. It's run at least one news segment about relatively small numbers of Pennsylvanians changing their party identification as supposed examples of the Democratic Party losing touch with voters in the Keystone State.
Fox News personalities have repeatedly pushed narratives portraying Fetterman as an elitist and a far-left radical and have given favorable coverage to Oz while attacking Fetterman:
- On August 3, Ingraham said Fetterman was only “playing the part” of a populist, adding, “It turns out that this giant man baby was getting allowance from his parents in excess of $50,000 a year. And it lasted not just for a few years but well into his 40s.” During the segment, the chyrons read “Exposing John Fetterman’s phony populism” and “‘Everyman’ Fetterman exposed as a fraud.”
- The same night, Ingraham gave a softball interview to Oz over Fetterman’s background, and Oz called his opponent a “fraud.” Oz, an extremely wealthy former television star, added that he was the real everyman, saying, “I'm a son of an immigrant. I believe in the American dream because I lived it myself.” He claimed Fetterman has “never had to work to make some money because it was given to him.”
- Ingraham also gave Oz a platform to refute Fetterman’s attacks on his New Jersey residence. She asked him, “They put Snooki out there to say you don’t live in Pennsylvania. But aren’t you living in the house that you and your wife were married in? I think I read that somewhere. Is that the case?”
- On Fox News Sunday, anchor Bret Baier focused on Fetterman’s left-leaning policies and fearmongered about his abortion stance, saying Fetterman leads Oz “by nine points in our latest poll. And voter enthusiasm shows Fetterman voters twice as enthusiastic than Oz voters at this point. But when you talk about policy, he is not exactly a mainstream moderate Democrat. He is a Bernie Sanders, left wing, and if you ask the abortion question in a way — 'when are you OK with limits' — you don't get an answer.”
- Brian Kilmeade discussed the Fox News poll with his panel on the July 31 edition of Fox & Friends Weekend. Kilmeade expressed confusion about Fetterman’s success so far, saying, “He isn't a moderate, and you would think that in a purple state that Pennsylvania is, that Trump won in 2016, you would think that that would be trouble and he can't pull a Tim Ryan and pretend he’s a moderate.”
- During an appearance on the July 31 edition of Steve Hilton’s Fox News show, conservative radio host Clay Travis suggested a line of attack Oz can use against trans people. He made a direct appeal to Oz, saying, “He needs to try to get John Fetterman to answer a simple question that I believe will ultimately decide the election in Pennsylvania: Can men get pregnant? He needs to go on the offensive here. … Dr. Oz watches a lot of Fox News. I know that a lot of his people do as well. I hope they get this clip. And I just want Dr. Oz to say over and over again — as a doctor — ‘I believe there are two sexes. Men and women, and I believe women get pregnant. I’ve got a simple question for John Fetterman. He can answer from his basement: Can men get pregnant?’”
- Ingraham bashed all Democratic Senate candidates in toss-up races, attacking Fetterman on energy costs: “A vote for John Fetterman in Pennsylvania is a vote for high energy prices.”
Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.
For decades, abortion was the perfect issue for Republicans: one that they could use to energize "pro-life" voters, and one that would be around forever. What's more, they ran little risk of alienating "pro-choice" voters, who had little concern that the GOP would ever be able to repeal abortion rights.
Key to this strategy was the assumption that the Supreme Court would preserve Roe v. Wade. GOP candidates and legislators could champion the anti-abortion cause secure in the knowledge that they would not have to follow through in any major way. They could nibble away at abortion rights with waiting periods and clinic regulations, but the fundamental right endured. And their efforts were rewarded with the steadfast support of a bloc of single-issue voters.
But the court dynamited the political landscape when it decided that the reproductive freedom women had enjoyed for half a century was a constitutional abomination. Roe was cast into the depths, and Americans woke up to a flurry of state laws greatly restricting or banning abortion.
How that sits with voters came into focus last Tuesday in Kansas, where the state constitution guarantees the right to terminate a pregnancy. Abortion-rights opponents put an amendment on the ballot to revoke it, but the effort went down by a crushing margin of 59 percent to 41 percent.
This was a state that Donald Trump won by a landslide twice. Even red-state citizens are recoiling from the new reality. The abortion initiative galvanized a surge in voter registrations and a massive turnout — nearly double the 2018 primary number.
Maybe the outcome should not have come as a surprise. "The vote in Kansas and four other states that had similar ballot measures before Roe was overturned is very much in line with all the national polls from the past several decades that showed roughly 60 percent didn't want to overturn Roe," Karlyn Bowman, a polling expert at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told me.
The anti-abortion cause has other problems. The first is that however much Americans gripe about the status quo, they often take a dim view of change. The prime example is the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare. When it was moving toward passage in 2010, a CNN poll found, 59 percent of Americans opposed it. In 2014, Republicans captured the House and Senate while promising to repeal and replace it. And in 2016, they won the presidency.
But a funny thing happened on their way to scrapping Obamacare: Public opinion went the other way. By the summer of 2017, a CBS News survey found that 59 percent of Americans opposed the "repeal and replace" bill. The legislation failed because three GOP senators voted with Democrats. Even in the House, which passed it, 20 Republicans voted no.
Americans generally don't like the idea of having something taken away from them. With the ACA, they feared losing their existing insurance — which is why Barack Obama repeatedly asserted (falsely), "If you like your health care plan, you can keep it." But once the program was in place, those same people feared the consequences of losing it.
In the case of abortion, many Americans had not really considered the possibility that it might suddenly become illegal. When that became a threat and then a reality, they were moved to fight back. And the people most affected by new abortion restrictions — women — were the ones most motivated.
Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist who teaches at Howard University, notes that after the draft of the Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe leaked, there was a spike in new voter registrations by women — "and a huge jump after the Supreme Court handed it down." Fully 58 percent of the early votes in the Kansas referendum were cast by women, which Bonier says is "unprecedented."
Republicans have done further damage to themselves by doing what politicians often do when they feel emboldened: overreaching. It's one thing to ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy. It's another to ban them all, without exceptions for rape and incest — and with weak protections to protect the health and life of the mother.
When abortion restrictions pose a danger even to pregnant women who fervently want to give birth, or when they inflict cruel suffering on victims of rape and incest, they are bound to provoke a negative reaction — which could have a major impact on the 2022 and 2024 elections.
On abortion, Republicans have sown the wind. The whirlwind they reap could be something to see.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
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