When polls in Pennsylvania began showing that the Senate race between Pat Toomey and Joe Sestak had narrowed to dead-heat range, the pollsters argued that Democrats in the state had begun to engage. Some, myself among them, questioned why that dynamic hadn’t shown itself in the gubernatorial race, where Tom Corbett had enjoyed double-digit leads over Dan Onorato. Today, Quinnipiac answers that by showing Corbett’s previous 15-point lead shrinking to just five in the final two weeks:
In the Pennsylvania governor’s race, Democrat Dan Onorato, the Allegheny County Executive, has erased most of State Attorney General Tom Corbett’s 15-point likely voter lead and now trails the Republican 49 – 44 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
This compares to a 54 – 39 percent Corbett lead in a September 21 likely voter survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University.
In today’s results, Corbett leads 86 – 7 percent among Republicans and 58 – 32 percent among independent voters, while Onorato is ahead 87 – 9 percent among Democrats. Only 6 percent of likely voters remain undecided. Sixteen percent of Onorato voters and 14 percent of Corbett backers say they might change their mind before Election Day.
To remind everyone, Democrats hold a massive registration advantage in Pennsylvania. Democrats account for 50.9% of all registered voters in Pennsylvania, while Republicans only come to 36.9%, a gap of 14 points. If Democrats get engaged in Pennsylvania, Republicans have to turn out in massive numbers and hope that independents do the same in order to beat them.
Like the Toomey/Sestak race, the Republican candidate does score high with independents in this race, actually besting Toomey’s 21-point lead with a 26-point advantage. Corbett also is in good position due to the low number of undecideds and the slightly better confidence level in his voters than in Onorato’s. Barack Obama’s negative job approval (in yesterday’s Q-poll of PA voters) also helps.
However, as these late developments show, nothing will take the place of GOTV efforts in the Keystone State. If Republicans are to win either of these statewide races, they will have to have superior organizational efforts on the ground. And there is good news in that regard for both Toomey and Corbett:
Pennsylvania voters have requested nearly 127,000 absentee ballots so far. Of that total, Republican voters made up 50 percent and Democrats made up 42 percent, according to figures collected Tuesday afternoon.
The state records show Republicans are returning their absentee ballots in greater numbers as well. The state has received about 40 percent of requested ballots, and Republican registrations outpace Democrats by 19 points, 56 percent to 37 percent, according to the state data. Absentee ballots made up 5 percent of total turnout in 2008.
There are few states that offer more competitive Congressional contests than Pennsylvania, a swing state where Democrats enjoy a 14-point voter registration advantage.
Not only is that a good indicator of the turnout model favoring Republicans a little more than perhaps the pollsters expected, but also of a robust organization in place for GOTV efforts.