Yesterday, I expressed considerable skepticism over a Muhlenberg College poll that showed Joe Sestak vaulting ten points in two weeks and into the lead over Pat Toomey for the US Senate seat in Pennsylvania. Today, Quinnipiac shows Sestak gained five points in four weeks to get within two points of Toomey:
The race for Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat is now a statistical dead heat with Republican Pat Toomey getting 48 percent of likely voters to 46 percent for Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
This compares to a 50 – 43 percent likely voter lead for Toomey, a former congressman, in a September 22 survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.
Toomey is beating Sestak 88 – 8 percent among Republicans and 56 – 35 percent among independent voters. But Sestak is winning 89 – 7 percent among Democrats. Thirteen percent of Toomey’s voters and 9 percent of Sestak backers say they might change their mind before Election Day. The 5 percent of undecided voters includes 9 percent of independent voters.
“Pennsylvania is a blue state and Democrats there have begun to come home,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “They are more engaged than they were earlier in the race. This is not unusual, especially in off-year elections. Democrats often engage later in the campaign than do Republicans. The political environment is more favorable now for them, as evidenced by President Barack Obama’s improved, but still decidedly negative, job approval rating.”
What kind of registration advantage do Democrats have in Pennsylvania? It’s pretty significant, according to this table of reported figures at HuffPo. Democrats account for 50.9% of all registered voters in Pennsylvania, while Republicans only come to 36.9%, a gap of 14 points. That’s wider than the gap in California. Republicans and independents put together only account for 49.1%, and even though independents are breaking sharply to the GOP, Toomey has to outperform the partisan gap to win the seat.
There is, however, good news in the poll as well. By a 51/43 majority, Pennsylvania voters want their next Senator to oppose the Obama agenda. A plurality of 45/38 want Republicans to control the Senate. In order to get either of those, Pennsylvanians have to vote for Toomey over Sestak, who as a Congressman was a rubber stamp for the Nancy Pelos/Obama agenda.
And, as Jim Geraghty points out, only 14% of Pennsylvanians think the economy is improving. In this cycle, those voters may turn out, but the 35% who think it’s getting worse will be more likely to show up.