Harry Enten | May 8, 2010
Topics: Pennsylvania , Senate
Is Arlen Specter really a stronger general candidate than Joe Sestak? It's an argument we've heard from Specter supporters. Unfortunately for Specter fans, I see limited evidence to support their claim.
A quick glance at the Pollster.com aggregates in a Specter vs. Republican Pat Toomey and Sestak vs. Toomey matchup shows that both candidates lose to Pat Toomey. Yes, it is true that Specter only trails by 6.9% (46.5%-39.6%) and Sestak trails by 9.1% (41.8%-32.7%), but the Sestak vs. Toomey matchup also has a larger pool of undecided voters. Thus, Sestak would have a greater opportunity to pick up voters and close any gap between Toomey and himself. Now you might believe that Specter could pick up the undecided voters in a Specter vs. Toomey matchup. This scenario does not seem likely when we look at the favorability ratings of Specter among the general electorate.
In the last three polls (conducted in early April), more voters rated Specter unfavorably than favorably. In two of the polls, a majority of voters had an unfavorable view of Specter. It is very unlikely that Specter would be able to win under these conditions. On the other hand, Sestak had a higher net favorable than Specter in all polls and in none of the polls did a majority of voters grade Sestak unfavorably. To me, this illustrates that Sestak definitely has a better chance of picking up undecided voters than Specter to have a chance at beating Toomey in November.
Of course, Toomey is the favorite against whomever he faces in the general election. He leads in both potential matchups and has higher net favorables than Specter and Sestak in all recent polls.