Every four years, Republicans salivate over the prospect of stealing a state or two from Democrats in a presidential election. They’ve come close in Wisconsin and might succeed this year, as I write in my upcoming book Going Red, but usually the focus falls on Pennsylvania. While Democrats enjoy a large advantage in party affiliation, the electorate of the Keystone State tends to elect Republicans statewide — and have remorse when a Democrat manages to win. In a new poll from Quinnipiac on the Senate race in Pennsylvania, we see both impulses in play. First up, incumbent Republican Pat Toomey has a substantial lead over both of his potential Democratic challengers:
In a rematch of their 2010 Senate race, Sen. Toomey leads former U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak 47 – 39 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. Toomey bests Katie McGinty by a similar 47 – 38 percent margin.
In the Toomey-Sestak matchup, independent voters are divided with 40 percent for the Republican and 39 percent for the Democrat. Toomey leads McGinty 41 – 34 percent among independent voters.
Pennsylvania voters approve 50 – 29 percent of the job Toomey is doing and give him a 45 – 24 percent favorability rating.
At the same time, Democratic governor Tom Wolf (not up for re-election this cycle) is drowning with a 35/52 job approval rating. Barack Obama does only slightly better at 44/53, well below his national job approval at the moment. All of this is good news for Toomey, obviously, and also for the GOP’s hopes to hold onto its Senate majority in November. Toomey’s winning among most demos, and achieves virtual ties with women against both Sestak (43/42) and McGinty (42/43). Women also give Toomey a +19 favorable rating at 42/23, almost identical to his overall rating.
One potential takeaway from this data is that the strongly unfavorable ratings for Donald Trump in the general electorate have little impact on the rest of the Republican ticket. In the Q-poll results released yesterday, Trump gets a disastrous 60/32 rating from the same Pennsylvania voters that shows affection for Toomey. At least in Pennsylvania, voters clearly distinguish between Trump and Republicans in general. If that is true in other states where the GOP has to defend Senate and House seats, the outlook for Congressional elections with a Trump nomination may not look as dire as some assumed.
Does this mean that Pennsylvania could be in play in November? Anything’s possible, but … here are the head-to-heads from the same sample:
- Kasich buries Clinton 51 – 35 percent;
- Kasich tops Sanders 46 – 40 percent;
- Clinton gets 45 percent to Trump’s 42 percent;
- Clinton ties Cruz 43 – 43 percent;
- Sanders tops Trump 48 – 40 percent;
- Sanders beats Cruz 46 – 38 percent.
The GOP would need Hillary to win the nomination and then either put Kasich or Cruz at the top of the ticket. It’s worth noting that while Kasich polls well in Pennsylvania, his campaign neglected to file any delegates for the vote later this month:
Unless you think Pennsylvania is his best state, where he filed 0 of 54 district delegates.
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) April 7, 2016
Given how important the ground game will be in swing states, Kasich’s demonstrable lack of such would bode ill for the GOP — and not just in Pennsylvania. Cruz looks like the most realistic chance, especially since he does know how to organize, but Republicans haven’t come within two percentage points in Pennsylvania since they last won the state in 1988. Wisconsin makes a better target, even if it has fewer Electoral College votes. But before that, Republicans have to take back bigger swing states they lost in 2008 and 2012, and my book Going Red lays out a path for success in doing that. It comes out April 12th from Crown Forum; find out more at GoingRedBook.com.