If you are a person heavily invested in the outcome of these midterm elections, my condolences. We’ve entered the election fog of war, where polls in tight races contradict each other, where the odious mainstream media habit of painting one party (Democrats) as utterly panicked and the other (Republicans) as cool and confident permeates, where partisans cling to one-off anecdotes as proof of their salvation or doom.
And unfortunately, even those of us wishing to preserve the thin thread by which we’re hanging on to our sanity can’t really afford to tune out. The stakes are just too high.
Let’s focus on the Senate race in Pennsylvania: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) vs. TV snake oil salesman Mehmet Oz.
This race has been catnip to reporters from the beginning. It features a Democratic folk hero facing off against a longtime TV celebrity. Fetterman’s campaign lit up the summer with a creative and unprecedented meme campaign on social media, emblazoning the word “crudité” onto our membranes forevermore.
Then came that narrative arc, most beloved by corporate media that cannot sustain one campaign story for too long. As Fetterman continued to recover from his stroke in public, and Oz, like Republicans nationwide, leaned into the crime narrative, the race tightened.
The race, in a state where elections are nearly always close, is close. And that’s all we really know. To hear some tell it, the debate where Fetterman struggled with his lingering auditory processing problems was a death knell. To others, Oz’s line (slightly altered in a hyper viral tweet) that “women, doctors, local political leaders” should all be involved in making decisions about abortion was a massive unforced error that could alienate him from the purple state.
You could cling to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) hot mic on the tarmac, or Fetterman’s post-debate fundraising haul for hope. Or, if you’re in the other camp, you could look to a couple new polls showing Oz with a tiny lead for the first time.
These countervailing data points wouldn’t feel so life-and-death if the threat was not so stark. Donald Trump and co. have already honed in on Pennsylvania as the place to target with bogus accusations of voter fraud if the race isn’t decided for Oz at once (and it almost certainly will not be, given that election workers can only start counting mail-in ballots the morning of Election Day in the commonwealth). That also creates the perfect conditions for a “red mirage,” with Oz leading early until overwhelmingly blue absentee ballots start to catch up — a normal shift MAGA types may claim is fraud. Meanwhile, Republicans are already trying to get some ballots tossed to juice their chances.
And beyond this election itself, the Pennsylvania Senate seat is absolutely critical for Senate control. It’s Democrats’ easiest pickup opportunity, leaving a much harder path to the majority without it.
These are the times that try men’s souls. And by these, I mean two weeks before a critical election. Try to keep in mind, as you see tweets swing from wildly optimistic to ready to die, that we are in the fog of midterms. All we know is that the races we pretty much always figured will be close, will be.