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Quinnipiac Poll: PA-Sen: Toomey 48 Sestak 33, Toomey 48 McGinty 32

Pat ToomeyDespite Katie McGinty being seen as a savior by some quarters of the Democratic Party for PA’s junior Senate seat, she still trails Joe Sestak in head-to-head matchups against Sen. Pat Toomey.

McGinty loses to Toomey 48% to 32%, while Sestak picks up just one more point against the incumbent, according to a new Quinnipiac poll. McGinty and Sestak have almost identical numbers between men and women and across all age groups, while Toomey picked up more support from women than McGinty – 40% to 38%.

McGinty and Sestak’s favorability ratings pale in comparison to Toomey’s 46%. McGinty – Gov. Tom Wolf’s former Chief of Staff – had a 15% favorability rating, while 74% haven’t heard enough about her. Sestak – a former U.S. Congressman – picked up a 22% favorability rating. The two Democratic challengers had especially low name recognition among 18-34 year olds.

PA’s senior Sen. Bob Casey enjoys a 51% approval rating, while Toomey earned 49% approval, according to the poll. Surprisingly – or not – 24% of PA voters were unable to voice an opinion on how each Senator was doing in Washington.

The poll conducted by Quinnipiac University between Aug. 7-18 surveyed 1,085 PA voters on land lines and cell phones. The margin of error for the poll was 3%.

28 Responses

  1. I am not at all surprised that Sestak has a relatively low level of recognition among Pennsylvania voters. It is a fact that when candidates are out of the public eye for a period of even a few years the voters, by-and-large, forget what they knew about him/her. Yes Sestak has been campaigning for the Senate for quite a while, but it has been a very targeted campaign aimed at building an activist grass-roots following. That included visiting every County Democratic Committee in the state after the 2010 election to thank them for their efforts. It included who knows how many personal letters to individuals he had interacted with during the campaign. I received one of those, as did many of my friends who supported him, and these were not form letters. They were personalized in a manner that impressed the recipients, in my case thanking me for runnning for the Pa. House as well as supporting his efforts. In subsequent elections he has appeared at campaign fund-raisers for other local candidates when asked.
    His current campaign has focused on almost daily informative e-mails to his supporters and traveling the state by bus and by foot. Such a campaign is not going to result in major headlines or huge outreach, but it will create a campaign structure on the ground that McGinty will have a difficult time matching even if she has a money advantage. Toomey won’t be able to match it either. You can’t buy what Sestak is building. This also drives the machine nuts because it will allow him to run a strong campaign without cowtowing to the Leadership. It doesn’t create huge recognition in early polls, but it will pay off big time later. It will also enable him to do much more with much less money if it comes to that, and I have no doubt the Democratic machine will do all it can to discourage those it is in bed with from contributing to his campaign. That will hopefully change after Sestak crushes McGinty in the primary.

  2. Observer #2-
    If you think Sestak is good at messaging debating, then you must have missed seeing all his debates. He just rattles off (drone-like) memorized numbers to form an incoherent haze. It’s obvious to real progressives that Sestak is not one of them, but merely regurgitating talking points he doesn’t feel nor understand.

    You can bet your bottom dollar that Sestak voted for Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes.

    Sestak has less money because he’s a poor fundraiser, has terribly childish/gimmicky pitches, and hires inexperienced/unprofessional staff that he can underpay and push around. Sestak is a cheap b@stard and would totally wh0re himself out for large donors, if any were interested.

    He refuses to work on coordinated campaigns, but NOT because he is so independent, but rather because he is completely selfish (wanting every second of his own resources devoted to his own campaign) and because he CONSTANTLY belittles all other candidates (and party) as lazy and worthless compared to himself. He hasn’t the slightest shred of respect for the work others do, and everyone that’s dealt with him knows it. It’s all about Joe, and not the issues, the party nor the voters.

    Talk to his former staffers and you will find a consistent picture of the man-behind-the-curtain that Sestak does not wish the public to know about.

  3. Dave: Just trying to be a bit objective, but I think Sestak IS good at messaging, debating, connecting, and, as for fundraising, I don’t know the numbers, and I know money is important, but then I am the kind of person who does not equate the large cash stashes of people like Jeb Bush and others with a good reason for ordinary people like me to think they belong in office. If Joe has less money than an opponent, I’d be even more likely to be for Sestak. I come from the school of thought of those who think money in politics debases a democracy and leads to the ultimate demise of democracy. Having said this sentimentalist liberal/populist/libertarian pabulum, I am reality-based and know what you are speaking of. I simply am not buying the premise and hope to change the reality. I know–good luck. But that’s where I am.

  4. <>

    Speaking objectively and impartially, if history is any guide, this is most probable result. 2016 could very easily be another 2000 – the Democrat at the top of the ticket takes the state by a comfortable margin yet the senate contest goes the other way, due to a well-funded incumbent whose reputation is not well-known among voters but who has the luxury of facing a challenger that doesn’t have the unqualified support of his/her party organization. Toomey is easily a stronger candidate than Rick Santorum was in 2000; and, both Sestak and McGinty are easily stronger than Ron Klink was. So, it’s a wash, and history repeats itself.

    That said, it would be marvelous to have a Democratic triumvirate in Pennsylvania again.

  5. Observer #2

    Sestak is a, hard working candidate, but terrible in every other way. Poor at messaging, connecting, playing well with others, fundraising, and debating.

    While neither candidate can likely beat Toomey, McGinty has the better chance.

  6. Matt and Dave:
    It is not alarming at all. We need just wait and see. McGinty, as you know, has not been impressive in the past. You may not like Sestak, but then who do you like? I have been clear. I like Sestak’s chances. I don’t like Toomey. I know how this website works and how some people on this site seem to have nothing else to do all day but pontificate. But, while I also pontificate, I make it clear who I like and I don’t publish wild charges unsubstantiated by evidence. I do have some info you may not have, but then others likely have more info than I. In any case, I hope we can all agree to be honest and offer opinions without attacking each other.

  7. I haven’t been following this race with the same microscope that others have, but it’s got to be pretty alarming to the Sestak people that he’s not doing better against a challenger who’s been in the race for only a few weeks. He’s been running for the U.S. Senate for six years. Sorta like Mitt Romney ran for president for six years. We saw how that ended.

  8. observer – the likelihood of sestak winning both the primary and general in 2016 – there is a greater likelihood that Rick Santorum will become the next president of the united states than of that ever happening.

  9. We have all seen McGinty campaign and she is not very good at it. She speaks down to people as if they are in kindergarten—with her arms flailing about. And, the story of 9 brothers or whatever, is a real bore and a turn-off. Sestak has huge support around the state with county committee people, which helps. Sestak is also independent. Sestak is not run by a few connected bosses and elites. Sestak will again prevail in the primary and this time he will likely take down the ultra-right ideologue Toomey.

  10. to: Luciana Lil

    Amen to that: :-).

    My only point of confusion is whether David is obsessed or simply a troll.

  11. Don’t confuse Diano with the facts. He is on a mission from God to destroy Sestak.

  12. KSDF-

    If Sestak is on MSNBC for an interview, that might yield one search result, but represents air time that McGinty is not getting for one hit/mention she gets.

    Sestak was the butt of more April fools stories on PoliticsPA than McGinty.

    But, my point about emails and attending events still stands as Sestak’s been actively campaigning with no traction.

    I see what you mean with the google search results, but a lot of her mentions are part of press releases and stuff related to Wolf where she is quoted, and not discussed as a candidate. So, the news stories aren’t primarily about her, and she is only mentioned in passing. It is interesting that the search numbers, but they are probably not relevant. I searched for myself and got 621 hits and I’m not running for anything.

  13. “McGinty has gotten very little press coverage since she lost the 2014 primary (over a year ago). Sestak’s gotten more coverage, actively sent out fundraising emails/letters, shown up at events, trampled children at a parade, gone on cable news shows, etc. ”

    Interestingly, Google News searches yield the following results:

    “Joe Sestak”: About 2,600 results
    “Katie McGinty”: About 2,610 results

    Given Sestak’s much longer time in public life, DD’s hypothesis is flat out wrong.

  14. Jerry-

    McGinty has gotten very little press coverage since she lost the 2014 primary (over a year ago). Sestak’s gotten more coverage, actively sent out fundraising emails/letters, shown up at events, trampled children at a parade, gone on cable news shows, etc.

    Sestak can’t get any traction.

    The odds are probably 70% to 80% that Toomey will be reelected. But, they are closer to 70% with McGinty and closer to 80% with Sestak. McGinty has the better shot.

  15. I would just point out that when people are polled and they don’t like the person they are being asked about they don’t say “I don’t know enough about him or her.” They say “I disapprove.”
    Let’s face it, Sestak last ran for office 5 years ago, and he gets very little media coverage. McGinty has gotten much more in recent months and years by virtue of being a candidate for Governor in 2014, being appointed to a high position in the Wolf Administration; becoming a candidate for the Senate, and getting all those endorsements people like David like to shout from the rooftops about. Neither Sestak nor McGinty have done any serious advertising. Sestak’s favorables are better than his unfavorables which indicates that people who are aware of who he is like him. It is just plain nonsense to read negatives into “I don’t know enough about him” responses. There is no basis whatsoever to conclude based on this poll that Sestak is unpopular with the voters. It would be nice if voters had better memories, but they just don’t. There are people who join these threads who will read anti-Sestak spin into virtually anything, but recognize it for what it is, not opinion, but unsupported spin. They may believe what they write because they have an almost irrational hatred for Sestak, but there is nothing remotely objective or informed in their comments.
    Unlike them I am not suggesting that this poll suggests that Sestak is a shoo-in to win the primary. All I am saying is that there are few conclusions anyone can reasonably draw from this poll regarding whether Sestak or McGinty is the stronger candidate. I believe the stronger candidate is Sestak, but this poll provides no evidence pro or con.

  16. Based on her results from last year, I’d expect McGinty’s numbers to go down once she starts campaigning for real.

    “Look at me! I had to share a bathroom with 10 brothers and sisters! And that’s why you should make me your new Senator! Nevermind that I have no experience or any qualifications!”

  17. Toomey is an idiot who has no moral compass. Oh, but then this is PA that’s voting. No wonder Trump leads the clown car in PA polls.

  18. Sestak has been running an endless campaign for the past 6-8 years now and 61% of the people polled had no idea who he was. LOL!! Meanwhile, McGinty who has only been running for a couple of weeks is polling the same as Sestak in a head to head matchup against Toomey! Hahahahaha Sestak is a loser. Pennsylvanians seriously don’t like this guy!

  19. Jerry-

    1) This poll is devastating to Sestak, because McGinty is already side-by-side with him against Toomey, without haven’t done ANYTHING visible since announcing, while Sestak is running around all over the place and sending annoying emails.

    2) The early devastation I spoke of was in the fundraising area. McGinty started mid-quarter so will have this coming quarter and a full quarter before the end of the year to establish herself against Sestak’s 10 quarters of fundraising.

  20. By the way, I agree with David that there is no head-to-head poll of the Sestak v McGinty primary. The favorable v unfavorable numbers suggest that Sestak would have come out ahead (and Sestak’s favorable numbers were stronger than hers across all demographics including women), but the voters are largely unfamiliar with both cdandidates, so the utility of this question would only serve to create a foundation for future trends. That alone is reason enough for asking the question.

  21. So, Observer, what is it about the poll that you take issue with exactly? My biggest problem with Quinnipiac is that they no longer include internals or tracks in their releases, so you have to pull up separate pdf’s in order to make those comparisons.
    The actual numbers are no surprise to me, and I think they are consistent with other polls and with historical results. And of course, as we have discussed in previous threads, polls this far out are not predictive of the actual outcome. That is just one more reason why the trends are important, as they are more predictive of at least what direction the polls are moving in.
    What the poll makes clear is that people who love to assert that Sestak has no support (like David Diano, who already seems to have forgotten his own predictions that McGinty would devastate Sestak right out of the gate) don’t know what they are talking about.
    Not too much has changed since the last poll in June. In a direct match-up with Toomey, Sestak gets 33% of the vote, down from 36%. Toomey has gone from 47% to 48%. These small shifts are not even statistically significant, but they do suggest that at best McGinty and all the sniping from the Democratic Leadership have only slightly impacted Sestak. What they may be accomplishing is doing just enough damage to Sestak to insure an ultimate Toomey victory.
    The much heralded (at least in threads at this site) McGinty loses to Toomey 32 to 48, so she is almost equal to Sestak, but not quite, Statistically the numbers are the same.
    Sestak is viewed more favorably than McGinty, despite the latter’s ballyhooed endorsements and Party Establishment support. 22% have a favorable view of Sestak versus 15% for McGinty. 17% have an unfavorable opinion of Sestak versus 11% for McGinty.
    So really all this poll suggests is that McGinty shows no signs of making the Earth move. It is still early, but I’m certainly not impressed. I remain convinced that Sestak will win the primary, but McGinty may damage him, and that would be a shame. It will, however, endear her to the Leadership which really cares more about taking down Sestak than defeating Toomey.

  22. Toomey is a slam dunk and everyone knows it – the only question is whether or not the dems can hold PA in the 2016 presidential contest – everything else is just hot air.

  23. Well, considering that McGinty has only just announced and Sestak has been actively campaigning, driving (walking) around the state for two years, it shows that Sestak is not more viable.

    The difference between them 32, 33 is within rounding error, let alone margin of error.

    Shame there isn’t a head-to-head primary poll.

  24. Again, a Quinnie 11-day poll. Garbage. And who paid for it? Quinnie only polls – and gets the desired result – when it is paid to do so. And they don’t disclose, which makes them completely dishonest. You should not be quoting them without disclosing who paid for the poll.

  • Understanding that basic education funding should/will be first, what should be the next highest priority for the General Assembly?

    • Raising The Minimum Wage (25%)
    • Legalizing Adult-Use Marijuana (24%)
    • None of the above. Something Else. (20%)
    • Economic Development (14%)
    • Higher Education (8%)
    • Public Transportation (8%)
    • Workforce Opportunities and Innovation (2%)

    Total Voters: 51

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