Aug. 28, 2015 — New Ohio and Pennsylvania Senate data just entered the public domain. Last week, Quinnipiac University released their presidential polling results for the three key swing states: the aforementioned two, and Florida. Now they publicize the secondary data from the Aug. 7-18 sampling period (Ohio – 1,096 registered voters; Pennsylvania – 1,085 registered voters).
The Ohio results are a bit confusing. While Sen. Rob Portman (R) enjoys a hefty 42:19 percent personal favorability ratio and a 45:26 percent job approval score, he rather surprisingly trails ex-Gov. Ted Strickland (D) 41-44 percent. The former Ohio chief executive, who fell to current incumbent John Kasich (R) in 2010, has a 44:32 percent personal mark, respectable, but not as good as Portman’s total.
This is the second released survey that places Portman behind Strickland. Quinnipiac also conducted that poll (June), finding a 46-40 percent Democratic advantage.
The ballot test(s) could be the result of a partisan skew, or simply an anomaly. What does ring true, however, is that the Ohio Senate race will be close. As was the case in 2010, Portman had a slight lead for most of the campaign but pulled away for good in the final two weeks to defeat then-Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher (D), by a substantial 57-39 percent margin.
The race financials are not so close. Sen. Portman, one of the better Republican political fundraisers in the country, banked more than $5.7 million since the beginning of the year with over $10 million cash-on-hand. Strickland is far behind, raising $1.7 million since entering the race but having only $1.2 million in his campaign account.
With the tremendous presidential contest influence affecting Ohio voters next year, much of the Senate race trends will be decided upon a high voter turnout and the national campaign progression. Therefore, if a Democratic wave were to form, though today appearing unlikely, Strickland could conceivably be carried into office. Despite this poll, however, Sen. Portman must still be considered at least a slight favorite for re-election.
Conversely, the Q-Poll finds very good news for the Keystone State’s Republican senator, also seeking re-election in 2016. With the Democrats having major primary trouble, the Quinnipiac data finds Sen. Pat Toomey (R) holding a 48-33 percent advantage over ex-Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA-7) and an almost identical 48-32 percent margin against new entrant Katie McGinty (D).
The results represent a net four-point gain for Sen. Toomey when compared to Quinnipiac’s June Pennsylvania survey. The incumbent’s favorability index is also strong, 49:26 percent favorable to unfavorable on the job approval question.
We have extensively covered the Democrats’ internal problems in Pennsylvania. The party leadership and Sestak being in open warfare has resulted in Rep. Bob Brady (D-PA-1) and other key Pennsylvania Democratic figures reaching out to recruit McGinty. Just entering the race, the new candidate is the former chief of staff to first-term Gov. Tom Wolf (D). She, herself, ran for governor in 2014 but fared poorly. McGinty placed fourth in a field of four Democratic candidates, securing less than 8 percent of the vote. Sestak, on the other hand, held Toomey to a tight 51-49 percent win in the 2010 Senate race.
Pennsylvania must be a top Democratic conversion target, but so far all indicators are pointing Sen. Toomey’s way. Obviously, a long time remains in this campaign, but Toomey has locked down the early months. It is difficult to conceive of Democrats reclaiming the Senate majority without winning Pennsylvania.