Monday, March 15, 2010
For the third month in a row, likely Republican nominee Pat Toomey holds a nine-point lead over incumbent Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate race.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Pennsylvania shows Toomey leading Specter 49% to 40%. Five percent (5%) like some other candidate, and seven percent (7%) more are undecided.
In December, Toomey led Specter by four points. However, in January, the GOP hopeful stretched that lead to nine, 49% to 40%, and posted a similar 47% to 38% lead last month.
Specter continues to maintain a solid lead over his Democratic Primary opponent, Congressman Joe Sestak. But Sestak runs more competitively with Toomey this month, trailing the Republican by just five points, 42% to 37%. Seven percent (7%) favor another candidate, while the number of undecideds rises to 15%.
The fact that the numbers have moved so little suggests that the race is still largely a contest about Specter and his ties to the unpopular national health care plan and other initiatives by the Obama administration. Any incumbent who at this stage of the race is polling less than 50% is considered potentially vulnerable.
Opposition to the health care plan is slightly higher in Pennsylvania than it is nationally. Forty-one percent (41%) of Keystone State voters favor the plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, but 58% oppose it. This includes 26% who Strongly Favor the plan and 44% who Strongly Oppose it.
Specter carries 86% of those who Strongly Favor the plan. Toomey carries 84% of those who Strongly Oppose it. There’s a similar gap between these voters when Sestak is the Democrat in the race.
Fifty-six percent (56%) of Pennsylvania voters think a better way to reform health care is to pass smaller bills that address individual problems rather than a comprehensive bill like the one now in Congress. Thirty percent (30%) like the idea of a comprehensive bill better.
When it comes to health care decisions, 46% fear the federal government more than private insurance companies. Forty-two percent (42%) fear private insurers more.
Just 36% believe the president has done a good or excellent job handling the health care reform issue. Forty-eight percent (48%) view his performance in this area as poor.
Obama won Pennsylvania in the 2008 election with 55% of the vote. Now 48% of voters in the state approve of the job he is doing as president, including 32% who Strongly Approve. Fifty-one percent (51%) disapprove of his job performance, with 40% who Strongly Disapprove. Still, this gives Obama a better job approval rating in Pennsylvania than he earns nationally in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
Sixty-three percent (63%) of Pennsylvania voters say it would be better for the country if most congressional incumbents were defeated. Just 16% think it would be better if most were reelected.
However, 34% say their own local representative in Congress deserves reelection. Thirty-six percent (36%) disagree.
Forty-two percent (42%) have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement, while 33% view it unfavorably. Only 16% say they are part of the Tea Party movement.
Voter backlash already has prompted Specter, a GOP senator for nearly 30 years, to switch parties last spring just after a Rasmussen Reports poll showed him trailing Toomey by 21 points in a state Republican Primary match-up. He acknowledged becoming a Democrat in part out of fear of losing the party primary.
Specter was one of only three Republicans in the Congress to vote for Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan in February of last year. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Pennsylvania Republicans said at the time that they were less likely to vote for Specter because of his support for the stimulus package.
Fourteen percent (14%) of Pennsylvania voters have a very favorable view of Specter, while 34% regard him very unfavorably.
Sestak is viewed very favorably by 10% and very unfavorably by 11%.
For Toomey, very favorables total 17% and very unfavorables 11%.
At this point in a campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with strong opinions more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.