Quinnipiac: Specter 53, Toomey 33; Specter 46, Ridge 43

Hard choices.

Independent voters, who back Sen. Specter over Toomey 45 – 36 percent, switch to Ridge 47 – 37 percent if he becomes a candidate. The former Republican Governor also gets 14 percent of the Democratic vote…

In the Specter-Toomey matchup, Republicans back Toomey 74 – 18 percent while Democrats go with their new convert 85 – 4 percent. Men back Specter 47 – 41 percent, as do women 59 – 26 percent. Union households go Democratic 62 – 27 percent.

In a Specter-Ridge face-off, Republicans go with Ridge 82 – 10 percent, while Specter takes Democrats 78 – 14 percent. Men shift to Ridge 50 – 41 percent, while women remain Democratic 51 – 37 percent. Union households back Specter 57 – 34 percent…

Pennsylvania voters approve 56 – 36 percent, including 81 – 10 percent among Democrats, of the job Specter is doing. By a 52 – 34 percent margin, voters have a favorable opinion of Specter. Toomey gets a 20 – 13 percent favorability, but 67 percent don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. Ridge gets a 55 – 19 percent favorability.

How significant is that last number? Karl reminded me on Twitter this morning that Barry O was once a little-known underdog to Hillary too, which is true, but (a) meaning no disrespect to Toomey, I doubt that he has The One’s retail or organizational skills, and (b) Obama and Hillary were playing on a basically even field whereas Toomey has to beat a Democrat in a state that went blue by 10 points last year. Will he so impress centrists and conservative Dems that they’ll abandon an incumbent with a net favorable rating of +20? Anything’s possible if the economy keeps tanking and the stimulus proves a bust, but even then, given these numbers, Ridge would likely ride the backlash to a better showing than Toomey would. In fact, Toomey would probably run to Ridge’s right in the GOP primary by hitting him for being pro-choice, which would play well with the base but set him up for disappointment in the general: As of 2005, at least, Pennsylvania voters were pro-choice by a margin of seven percent. (Yeah, Bob Casey’s pro-life, but the guy he beat, Rick Santorum, was even more adamantly so.) I don’t foresee much, if any, wavering in turnout among Republicans if Ridge is the nominee either. So desperately will they want to punish Specter for his apostasy that they’re bound to show up for whoever the nominee is.

Here’s what it boils down to. Is Toomey capable of running a campaign so effectively as to negate the big built-in advantages Ridge enjoys from his name recognition? Note that Ridge actually does better among Republicans in a match-up with Specter than Toomey does. And assuming that Toomey isn’t capable, is Ridge’s stance on abortion — an issue he’ll never vote on in the Senate — so objectionable that you’re forced to back a guy who probably can’t win instead?