In the 10 most recent Pennsylvania polls tracking the 2024 presidential race, Donald Trump leads in eight and is tied with Biden in one. The one poll with a Biden lead is an outlier, a dubious Franklin and Marshall poll that says Biden’s up by 10.

The net result is that, in the weeks after his conviction on felony charges in a Manhattan courthouse, Trump’s margin over Biden has expanded to a 2.3 percent lead. On Thursday, the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics moved Pennsylvania from “leans Democrat” to the “toss up” category.

And it’s not just the presidential race.

“Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) remains a favorite in our ratings, but our shift of Pennsylvania to Toss-up in the presidential race prompts a concurrent change in his race, from Likely to Leans Democratic,” wrote Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at UVA.

A new Marist poll appears to support that trend. It found Trump with a two-point lead over Biden (47-45 percent), and Casey with a six-point lead over Republican challenger Dave McCormick.

Republican strategists say the presidential race will have a significant impact on the Senate race. But McCormick may also have another advantage: the electorate isn’t familiar with him. In other words, increased name ID may give him a natural bump over time.

The Marist Poll survey of 1,277 Pennsylvania voters revealed that 37 percent of the group didn’t know enough about McCormick. That included 28 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of independents. It also found that eight percent of Trump voters planned to cross party lines and vote for Casey.

Dr. Lee Miringoff with the Marist Institute for Public Opinion told DVJournal that McCormick has to establish himself more or he’ll play into Casey’s hands. “When an opponent sees low name recognition they will hurry up and define that candidate in terms that they like which may not be what McCormick likes.”

Democrats have sought to paint McCormick as an out-of-state extremist and millionaire who is out of touch with Pennsylvanians.

McCormick, who grew up in Bloomsburg before attending West Point, has a home in Pittsburgh. He’s also openly discussed his wealth on the campaign trail and said it can be used to connect with voters.

He recently wrapped up a tour of all 67 Pennsylvania counties. McCormick said the tour proved how Casey and President Joe Biden’s policies on the economy, inflation, and immigration hurt Pennsylvanians.

Polls show those issues are important to Keystone State voters. More than 30 percent of Marist poll respondents listed inflation as their top issue while immigration came in third. Similar results were reported by recent polls released by Siena/New York Times and AARP Research.

RealClearPolitics put Casey’s aggregate lead at five percent.

Multiple political strategists and analysts told DVJournal that McCormick has plenty of time and money to increase his name value.

“McCormick’s campaign will have essentially unlimited resources,” said longtime political consultant Craig Snyder. “By the time ordinary voters are ready to focus on this race, he will have, at least functionally, universal name recognition.”

Jeff Jubelirer with Bellevue Communications said it was surprising to see that Pennsylvania voters didn’t know McCormick but expected that to change. He said McCormick’s personal fortune and support from the Republican Party and super Political Action Committees will get him the name recognition he’ll need.

The Casey-McCormick race is expected to be one of the more expensive and hotly contested races in the country. A pro-McCormick Super PAC reserved $30 million in TV time last month. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Casey’s campaigns have spent almost $18 million on ads.

Casey’s biggest advantage, and perhaps McCormick’s biggest obstacle, is that the three-term Democrat remains relatively popular with Pennsylvania voters. The Marist Poll reported that 46 percent of Pennsylvania voters had a favorable opinion of the incumbent.

Republican strategist Vince Galko, who advised former GOP U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, told DVJournal that elections tend to be about the incumbent.

“Seventy-seven percent of people have already made up their mind about Bob Casey. McCormick really needs to spend more time going after Casey…tearing down Casey’s record and highlighting problems with Casey’s policies,” he said.

McCormick communications director Elizabeth Gregory told DVJournal the campaign plans to do exactly that.

“[We’ve been] training our fire on career politician Bob Casey, who has voted for Joe Biden’s failing agenda 98 percent of the time, fueling a border crisis that has killed over 4,000 Pennsylvanians from fentanyl, violent crime, record inflation and regulations that are killing the commonwealth’s energy sector,” she said.

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