Democratic state Rep. Matt Smith leads Republican businessman Raja 54 percent to 38, according to a poll released by his campaign. The two are facing off to replace recently retired Sen. John Pippy (R-Allegheny).
“The 37th district is a true swing district, with a nearly even generic ballot. Mitt Romney has a slight advantage over President Obama, while U. S. Senator Bob Casey leads in his race,” wrote pollster Marc Silverman of Thirty-Ninth Street Strategies. “Smith should be able to hold onto this lead and win as long as he has the resources to effectively communicate with voters.”
A few other highlights:
- Of the 8 percent of voters who are undecided, 44 percent identify as Democratic and 39 percent as Republican.
- Raja, who ran for Allegheny County Executive in 2011, begins the race with a net-unfavorable rating of 41 percent (versus 36 percent favorable).
- Republicans lead the generic ballot in the district, 46 percent to 44.
- Mitt Romney leads in the district by one point, 47 percent to 46.
- Bob Casey leads in the district by 4 points, 50 percent to 46.
As with all internal polling, this should be taken with a grain of salt. Raja is set to go up on television this week and is able to give his campaign significant support. Releasing this poll memo now, given the fact that it is almost 3 weeks old, could be an effort to mitigate Raja’s financial and media advantage.
Raja’s campaign dismissed the numbers.
“Our own polling weeks ago showed Raja with a lead,” said Campaign Manager Jennifer Hass. “Putting out questionable polls is what Harrisburg politicians like Matt Smith do to hide their records. When voters find out about Matt Smith’s extreme liberal record including support of over $2.4 billion in tax increases and $5 billion in spending they will reject his tired tax and spend liberal policies.”
That a full 92 percent of voters are already decided in a state senate race seems rather high. And John McCain won the district by about 8 points in 2008, while these numbers show Obama down by just 1.
Smith celebrated the strong numbers in his poll.
“I’m extremely proud of the vast and growing support that I have received in my campaign for the state Senate,” said Smith. “It is clear that the voters support my vision for building the future here in western Pennsylvania by investing in education and creating jobs, and I intend to work hard to earn the privilege of serving the residents of the 37th district as their state Senator.”
Raja won a high-profile, contested primary with state Rep. Mark Mustio and activist Sue Means. Democrat Greg Parks, Raja’s original opponent, withdrew from the race in late June, citing personal reasons that would prevent him from seeing the race the whole way through. Days later, Sen. John Pippy (R-Allegheny) officially retired – just minutes after next year’s budget was signed into law – and took a position with the PA Coal Association.
The seat is one of four seen by Democrats as serious pickup opportunities in the state Senate, where the caucus has had to work just to maintain its 20 out of 50 seats in recent years.
The district also handily won PoliticsPA’s reader poll asking which state Senate race was going to be the most competitive.
Thirty-Ninth Street Strategies conducted live interviews with 400 likely voters from August 6-9. The expected margin of sampling error for these results is +4.9 percent with a 95 percent confidence level.
Here’s the full memo: