Conor Lamb Had All The Makings of a Front-Runner in Pennsylvania. So Why Is He Struggling?

Ms. Brodie voted for Mr. Fetterman early. “He doesn’t look like a guy who came out of an Ivy League school,” she said. “He will engage with different types of voters.”

At a recent debate, Mr Lamb said he knew how swing voters felt on many issues. “They look for stability and caution in their leadership,” he said.

But that message, with its echoes of Mr. Biden’s 2020 campaign, may be outdated.

Brendan McPhillips, who ran the Biden campaign in Pennsylvania, said Democratic voters are looking for something different: they see candidates committed to fighting a Republican party as dangerously swaying to the right. While both Mr. Lamb and Mr. Fetterman support the Senate abolition of the filibuster to further Democratic priorities, Mr. Fetterman has gone further by challenging Mr. Manchin, the Democrat who has blocked filibuster reform. often made a target.

Mr McPhillips said caution was the wrong message for the Democratic base today. “The stakes couldn’t be higher,” he said. “We are up against literal fascists. We need to reach for bolder ideas.”

From the start, Mr. Lamb’s fundraising could not compete with Mr. Fetterman’s appeal to a national cohort of small online donors. After launching its first TV ad in March, the Lamb campaign was forced to take it off the air for most of April, a crucial month in which voters tuned in to the race. The campaign returned to television in late April and spent $543,600 on ads in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh in the first week of May, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking company.

Mr. Fetterman’s TV spots have been running non-stop since March. He spent $537,000 in the first week of May, reaching the state’s two largest cities, as well as Wilkes-Barre and Harrisburg.

Some strategists said Mr. Lamb should have aggressively attacked Mr. Fetterman in his ads — particularly in an incident in 2013 when Mr. Fetterman, who was then mayor of the city of Braddock, brandished a shotgun to stop an unarmed black jogger.

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