Up to now, Republicans had some reason for optimism in Pennsylvania, although not necessarily in the presidential election. Only one poll this year showed Donald Trump in the lead in the Keystone State, a Quinnipiac poll from mid-July. However, two out of three recent polls showed incumbent US Senator Pat Toomey with a lead over Democrat Katie McGinty, in one Q-poll by ten points.
Just hours before Democrat Hillary Clinton is set to make history in Philadelphia as the first woman to accept her party’s U.S. presidential nomination, a new Suffolk University poll of likely general-election voters in Pennsylvania shows Clinton with a commanding lead over Republican Donald Trump. In a two-way matchup, she led Trump 50 percent to 41 percent, with 8 percent undecided.
Pennsylvania has voted Democratic in the past six presidential elections, going back to Bill Clinton’s first win in 1992. Yet it is a rust belt state that could be in play, as indicated by recent general-election polling showing a close race.
In a four-way scenario, with Green Party nominee Jill Stein and Libertarian Gary Johnson added into the mix, Clinton led Trump 46 percent to 37 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at 5 percent, Green Party nominee Jill Stein receiving 3 percent, and 9 percent undecided.
“Hillary Clinton is flirting with fifty thanks to Philly,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Research Center in Boston. “At this point Clinton’s large lead in the Philadelphia area is offsetting losses to Trump in other parts of the state. She also is amassing the support of women and thus drowning out Trump’s marginal lead among men.”
It’s not looking good for Toomey, either:
In Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate contest, Democrat Katie McGinty (43 percent) led incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (36 percent), with a considerably high 20 percent still undecided or refused.
The demographics in the binary presidential contest do not look at all encouraging. Trump only scores a 48/44 lead among men, and trails 35/56 among women. Among white voters — Trump’s strong suit in the Rust Belt — he only scores 48/42, not even getting to a majority. Hillary wins among independents 46/41, and non-whites 80/14. Trump does well in the western part of Pennsylvania, 55/38, but only gets to 48/41 in the central part and trails 24/72 in Philadelphia.
Could this be an outlier? Possibly, although the latest Marist poll for the NBC/Wall Street Journal series showed similar results. In that poll released two weeks ago, Toomey trailed McGinty by three points, while Hillary led by an identical nine-point gap, only with the numbers at 45/36 rather than 50/41. For those who tend to look at sample composition, the split was D+9 at 48/39.4 on a sample of 500; 2012 turnout was 45/35 Democrat, while the 2014 midterm turnout was 40/38 Democrat. At the least, it’s within range of reasonable.
More concerning is the timing of these results. The survey period started three days after the end of the Republican convention, into the disastrous start of the Democratic convention. One would have expected to see a Trump bounce in that period. Instead, Suffolk’s data strongly suggests that the convention in Cleveland failed to move the needle at all in Pennsylvania, a state on which Trump has staked his campaign-strategy credibility. If it’s an outlier, we should see markedly different results from pollsters other than Suffolk and Marist soon … or at least Republicans hope.