Burns up by 1 in PPP poll

Voters go to the polls in the special election in PA-12 tomorrow, and it looks like a photo finish.  Despite reports from internal polling for Democrat Mark Critz showing him with a comfortable but small lead, Public Policy Polling shows Republican Tim Burns edging John Murtha’s former aide.  Enthusiasm provides the difference:

The special election to replace John Murtha looks to be headed for a photo finish, with Republican Tim Burns leading Democrat Mark Critz 48-47 in PPP’s final poll of the race.

PA-12 provides a clear example of how dimly voters are viewing politicians and parties across the board right now. Hurting Critz’s chances is that 55% of voters in the district disapprove of Barack Obama and 63% have an unfavorable opinion of Nancy Pelosi. But national Republicans don’t do much better in the district with 60% of voters expressing a negative opinion of Congressional Republicans and 63% saying the GOP ran the country poorly while George W. Bush was President.

If Burns does pull out the victory on Tuesday night it will be more because of a continuing gap in interest between Democratic and Republican voters in the off year election than anything else. Critz is actually winning over more McCain voters (14%) than Burns is Obama voters (12%). This race is not an example of people who voted for Obama who are now unhappy with him and voting Republican. But those planning to vote on Tuesday report having voted for John McCain by 5 points in 2008, compared to his actual 1 point victory in the district. And among voters who say they’re ‘very excited’ to vote in this election, Burns has a 60-38 lead.

The poll surveyed over 800 likely voters in the district, a larger-than-normal sampling for a Congressional race.  In a district normally rated as significantly Democratic in nature, the survey leaves Republicans with a 19-point gap in party ID, 55/36.  That seems a little wide for likely voters — and shows the kind of trouble in which Critz finds himself.

Critz has other problems as well.  He only has a 3-point lead among women, who don’t even give him a majority with a day left until they have to vote, 49/46.  Burns wins men by six points, 50/44.  Most tellingly, Critz’s favorability is upside down at 39/45, while Burns enjoys a 44/36 rating.  In another harbinger, this Democratic district favors Pat Toomey over both Arlen Specter (53/34) and Joe Sestak (45/35).

Tim Burns has a tough job tomorrow in a Democratic district, but voters there seem ready for some real change.  This could be a shocking win for Republicans in the heart of Democratic Pennsylvania.

Addendum: Critz isn’t the only person plagued by bad polling in PA-12.  While 83% of the voters consider themselves Steelers fans, only 48% want Ben Roethlisberger taking the field for Pittsburgh next season.