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PoliticsPA: GOP maintains leads in final week of polling

By Alex Irwin

PoliticsPA Contributor

With just a few days left before Election Day, polling results released this week show large margins favoring the GOP in the gubernatorial race and a smaller, yet significant, lead for Republicans in the battle for the U.S. Senate.

In the Senate race, Republican candidate Pat Toomey holds a single-digit lead over Democrat Joe Sestak in a majority of polls put out this week. In a Franklin & Marshall College poll released Wednesday, he leads Sestak by seven points among those likely to vote, 43 percent to 36 percent. In the Morning Call/Muhlenberg College tracking poll released Thursday, Toomey led Sestak 48 percent to 40 percent, including leaners.

Polling numbers from national sources suggest a slightly closer race. A CNN/Time poll out Wednesday put Toomey’s lead at four, 49 percent to 45 percent. Numbers from Reuters/Ipsos on Tuesday showed the race in a dead heat at 46 percent.

In the contest for the governor’s mansion, Republican Tom Corbett boasts a more comfortable lead over Democrat Dan Onorato. A Quinnipiac University poll released last Friday put Corbett up by five points, 49 percent to 44 percent. But numbers released this week have Corbett ahead by numbers similar to what pollsters have been seeing for much of the race. The same Morning Call/Muhlenberg College tracking poll has Corbett leading by 15 points (including leaners) yesterday. The F&M poll shows Corbett ahead 47 percent to 32 percent. CNN/Time’s results have a seven point lead for the GOP attorney general.

Chris Borick, director of the polling institute at Muhlenberg College, said the cumulative results of the week’s polls point to good news for Republicans.

“Tom Corbett is a prohibitive favorite to win this thing next week, and Pat Toomey is a front runner, but still in a competitive race. I think when you put everything together, you come to those conclusions,” Borick said.

Borick said there was a brief indication in previous weeks’ numbers that Sestak may be making inroads by linking Toomey to far-right Republicans like Rick Santorum and Sarah Palin.

“I think there was a point about a week and half ago where Sestak, with his ads, was casting a little bit of doubt in voters’ minds about Pat Toomey and how extreme of a candidate he might be,” Borick said.

But any momentum that might have generated seems to have dried up, thanks to the Toomey campaign’s ability to continually push a traditional conservative platform.

“The Toomey camp has been relentless in coming back to its messages —  both that Sestak is too far-left for Pennsylvania and what they believe is the winning message of limited government, budget management and fiscal conservatism,” Borick said. “I think in this particular election cycle, that’s the more popular message and it’s helped steady the ship.”

In the battle for the remaining undecided voters, about 10 percent of respondents in most polls, Borick said Democrats have an uphill battle. Undecideds have a tendency to break for the challenger, and with no incumbents in the two statewide races, undecided voters may default to the current minority party.

“If the de facto incumbent is the Democratic Party, with the Rendell administration lurking in voters’ minds, that poses some difficulties for both Democratic candidates.”

For Democrats hoping to close the gap, it’s all about turnout, particularly in the Southeast. And the Democrats are pulling out all the stops in that region in these final days. In the last week before the election, Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden and First Lady Michelle Obama are all scheduled — or have already made appearances —  to stump for candidates in the Philadelphia region to drive Democratic voters out to the polls.

Terry Madonna, director of the F&M poll, said his numbers this week show the Democrats have had little success in motivating voters. Thirty-six percent of Democrats are considered “likely to vote,” while 49 percent of Republicans say they’ll make it out to the polls.

“I’m actually stunned at how little movement there is for democrats, despite the prodigious effort they’re making,” Madonna said.

Borick’s seen similar results in his polling efforts. Respondents who would be considered likely voters based on past behaviors but say they aren’t voting in this election have been “overwhelmingly Democrat,” Borick said.

“It’ll be interesting to see if Democrats can have one last run over the weekend and bring some more voters into the mix.”

For Republicans, the focus should be on finishing strong, Borick said. That means making the calls and making sure enthusiasm translates into votes.

“That’s simply due diligence for a campaign,” Borick said.

One Response

  1. Unfortunately, Sestak brings little of obvious value to the table. He would be a freshman senator, (Pennsylvania already HAS a frosh in Casey)having taken down a courageous public servant whose history in the seat has been moderate and responsive to constituents without a slavish ideological adherence to party agenda. Sestak chose to be the sort of politician for which voters have demonstrated a decided contempt; willing to do whatever might get him elected, covering his rash gestures with conciliatory assurances that he’s out to serve the families of Pennsylvania. Yet his walk doesn’t match his talk. Families want stability. Sestak can’t find the cross-over line between tough-minded and hard-headed. He has played on the age-ist proclivities of cynics who equate money with competitiveness and, in the process, disrespected the State’s Party leadership still smarting over the manner in which our 2008 Primary results were dismissed by the DNC. If this is a war for the soul of the Democratic Party, Sestak is the lynchpin for purging the Party of the foolish “Progressives” who can’t win elections with their shoving and lack of political evenness. They fail to understand that you help people FIRST, then ask them for their help. Political lessons taught, and very much in order.

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