After winning the primary against Arlen Specter despite the efforts of the White House, Joe Sestak got a big bounce in polling for the general election. He took a four-point lead over Republican Pat Toomey, and Democrats rejoiced that Pennsylvania began to look winnable. Two weeks later, the glow has receded from Sestak’s win, and he finds himself trailing again by seven, according to Rasmussen:
Congressman Joe Sestak’s post-primary bounce appears to over, and he now trails Republican rival Pat Toomey by seven points in the U.S. Senate contest in Pennsylvania.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in Pennsylvania shows Toomey with 45% support, while Sestak earns 38%. Five percent (5%) prefer another candidate in the race, and 12% are undecided.
Two weeks ago, just after his widely covered primary victory over longtime Senator Arlen Specter, Sestak posted a modest four-point lead lead over Toomey.
Prior to the primary, however, Toomey tended to enjoy modest leads over Sestak.
A seven-point lead isn’t really all that modest, and neither is an eleven-point drop in polling. During the primary campaign, Sestak ran as an outsider by repeatedly accusing the White House of attempting to bribe him out of the race. Last week, though, Sestak began changing his tune a little, and this week started cooperating with the White House on public statements about the contact between himself and the Obama administration. With 75% of likely voters closely following the scandal and 52% saying it’s important to their voting decision, it could have resulted in picking up some heavy baggage and losing some voters in the latest survey.
That could also figure into a big favorability gap that now plagues Sestak, too. He manages to remain in positive territory with a +9 (49/40), but Toomey has a +25 (55/30), with relatively comparable undecideds (11% to 16%, respectively). There won’t be much room for either candidate to define the other with the small amount of undecideds, which is a problem for Sestak given his comparably high negatives.
Sestak has another problem: independent voters. Toomey gets 50% of them, compared to an anemic 16% for Sestak, with 24% undecided (10% want another candidate). Among unaffiliated voters, Sestak has a -29 favorability rating (25/54), so he’s unlikely to do much better as the undecideds split when the election draws near. He has room to pick up Democrats, but that’s also a measure of his weakness. He currently only get 65% of his own party (Toomey gets 77% of Republicans), which could be a harbinger of a light Democratic turnout in the general election thanks to a lack of enthusiasm for their candidate.
The issues also don’t favor Sestak. A majority of likely voters want ObamaCare repealed (52%), oppose the Obama administration’s potential challenge of the Arizona immigration law (58%), disapprove of Barack Obama’s job performance (52%), and also Ed Rendell’s performance as governor (55%). That’s not a recipe for a big comeback in this cycle for any Democrat, let alone an incumbent Congressman looking for a promotion.