The new Quinnipiac poll in Pennsylvania suggests that Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) could be a stronger Democratic nominee than Sen. Arlen Specter in the general election against Republican former Rep. Pat Toomey. Both of them currently trail Toomey, but Sestak makes it a closer race with a higher number of undecideds.
Toomey leads Specter by a margin of 47%-40%, but only edges Sestak by 42%-40%. Last month, Toomey led Specter by 46%-41%, and led Sestak by 42%-34%. the survey of registered voters has a ±2.9% margin of error. Interestingly, yesterday’s Quinnpiac poll of the Democratic primary found that likely Dem primary voters thought Specter was the stronger Democrat to win the general election, by a margin of 54%-29%.
The TPM Poll Average for the general election gives Toomey a lead over Specter of 44.9%-38.4%, and 37.9%-34.3% over Sestak. For the Democratic primary — which is this Tuesday — the TPM Poll Average gives Specter an edge over Sestak of 43.6%-41.7%
Specter was first elected to the Senate as a Republican in 1980, after having served as the Republican district attorney in the Democratic city of Philadelphia. In the Senate, he served as a moderate, socially liberal GOPer. He was challenged from the right for the GOP nomination in 2004 by then-Rep. Pat Toomey. Despite having the full support of the then-popular Bush White House and the GOP establishment, Specter survived the primary by only a 51%-49% margin.
Specter’s support among Republicans fell in 2009, after he provided a crucial vote to pass President Obama’s stimulus package. Toomey then declared his candidacy for a primary rematch again, and Specter subsequently switched parties when polls showed he would lose the primary. The Obama White House and Pennsylvania Democrats then closed ranks around Specter, but that did not stop Sestak from declaring his candidacy. Specter had big leads in the race until the last few weeks — but Sestak has been closing fast.