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PA: Sestak is Stronger in the General Election

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.

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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.

[Cross-posted to poughies.blogspot.com]

 

Comments
ProfAlan:

I think Toomey is too far to the right for Pennsylvania. Up until now, the Democratic candidates have had to focus on the primary, but after that's over, I would expect the Democratic nominee to gain in the general-election polls. If Toomey wins in November, then the Democrats will be having a disastrous night nationally.

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Kevin Miller:

There is no question Sestak is the stronger candidate. As someone who lives in PA, I know there is no love lost over Specter. He has burned to many bridges. Sestak is a the real Democrat, and we in this state know that Tommey is a right wing crazy.

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Harry Enten:

I gotta admit I was going to reply with a "but they elected Santorum"... In fact, according to the DW-Nominate Joint House and Senate Scaling, Toomey make Santorum look like Bernie Sanders. Toomey has an even more conservative record than Jesse Helms!

As to your point Prof. Alan, I know where you are going with it. I'm not sure I entirely buy it, if only because these are pretty large deficits... Not just a point or two. That and Toomey has got a lot of dough. We'll have to see.

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Mike Zilber:

I agree that Sestak is a stronger general election candidate than is Specter. I do think that when Toomey's extreme right-wing belief system is exposed, even Specter could eke out a victory. However, the Sestak ads are devastating and accurately show Specter to be an utter opportunist who will do almost anything to keep in office. The Obama admin has to thread a very small needle here. Yes, they promised Specter they would support him, but I think they need to stay positive about Specter and not go negative on Sestak, since the odds are at least 50/50 Sestak will be the victor.

The combination of Specter's age, poor health and opportunism, plus the general antipathy towards ANY incumbent, make him a great target for defeat by even someone like Toomey. Sestak, a real Democrat with major military bona fides has a much better shot.

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CHRIS MERKEY:

I have said this in several threads before but we elected Santorum twice. However, in 1994, he was elected being a relative unknown. There was also a Republican tide that also swept him in. Some backlash against the Clintons. it happens a lot to the presidential party. However, Santorum kept a low profile even after he was reelected in 2000. Then, he began thinking that he could probably say almost anything and get reelected. He had several issues in 2006. Remarks about gay people and women working and not being stay at home moms. There was also a Democratic tide in 2006. Not to mention the Dems recruited Casey (one of the best political dynasties in PA). He lost by 20%. I think even Swann performed better against Rendell than Santorum did. If not, they were pretty close. I didn't realize that TOomey was to the right of Santorum. I think the Dems can hold onto this seat. I will knock on doors in PA to make sure Toomey is not the senator from the great state of PA. Montgomery County is the key. They will decide who wins this election.

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Farleftandproud:

It is pretty creepy that a state like PA would actually nominate someone like Toomey. Even President Bush sounds moderate in comparison. I like to think of PA is sort of like Ohio with a combination or progressives, conservatives and middle of the road Indepenents; senators like Voinovich and Dewine were not extreme conservatives. Neither was Governor Tom Ridge in PA.

Democrats must spend more on this campaign than any others and run lots and lots of ads condemning Toomey's voting record, and comparing him to Coburn, Demint and Helms.

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Farleftandproud:

Toomey is probably another Bob Mcdonnell or John Ensign. He doesn't come across as an extreme conservative but really is.

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