Ups and Downs in Ohio,
Pennsylvania Senate Races

Ohio Senate

April 8, 2015 — Quinnipiac University conducted a new Ohio poll (March 17-28; 1,077 Ohio registered voters) and finds that the state’s electorate apparently has a short memory.

In 2010, the Ohio voters defeated former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) after a single term, yet this poll gives him a strong 49:29 percent favorable to unfavorable approval rating and posts him to a significant 48-39 percent lead over Sen. Rob Portman (R). This is a surprising result because all other early polls give the senator a slight advantage, at the very least.

In looking closely at the survey, there appears to be little reason why the presumed Democratic nominee would maintain such a discernible edge. The large polling sample is split virtually evenly between the two parties – 28 percent Democratic, 27 percent Republican, 35 percent Independent — which is reflective of Ohio’s swing nature. The sample has no detectable anti-Republican bias, as shown in Gov. John Kasich’s (R) positive personal ratings and those of others. Kasich’s job approval ratio is an outstanding 61:28 percent.

Interestingly, Sen. Portman’s own ratings are even a little better than Strickland’s, even though he trails the former governor. The Portman job approval ratio is 49:23 percent, equal to Strickland on the positive front but six points better on the negative scale. Therefore, it is difficult to explain, with the limited questionnaire that was employed to determine the available responses, why Portman would be trailing.

Usually when the supporting information is not particularly consistent with the ballot test conclusions, the poll results are largely discounted. This is particularly true, as is the case with this study, when there is simply no logical explanation for the derived conclusion.

Chances are, this poll is an anomaly because the underlying characteristics and the final conclusion are inconsistent. Still, Ohio is a swing state and even though Sen. Portman should be in relatively strong shape for re-election, no candidate can be considered overly secure in such a political environment.

Pennsylvania Senate

Quinnipiac also simultaneously surveyed the Pennsylvania Senate race (March 17-28; 1,036 registered Pennsylvania voters), testing Sen. Pat Toomey’s (R) strength against former Rep. Joe Sestak (D).

Yesterday, we highlighted this race and the rather chaotic situation with which the Democrats find themselves intertwined. The state and national Democratic Party leaders have made no secret of the fact that they would prefer a nominee other than Sestak, despite his 49 percent performance against Toomey five years ago. Even the former congressman, himself, acknowledges that relations between he and those comprising the official party structure are poor.

In this Pennsylvania Q-Poll snap shot, Sen. Toomey enjoys a 48-35 percent advantage, his largest lead of the election cycle. Toomey has a strong 49:24 percent job approval rating.

At least according to this sampling universe, apparently the electorate has lost familiarity with Sestak. His approval ratio is only 24:14 percent, with a whopping 61 percent saying they don’t have enough information to render an educated opinion about him. These types of polling results should increase the Democratic political strategists’ consternation about having Sestak as their repeat nominee.

If polling continues along the current line, a primary challenge from either state Sen. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia) or Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski could gain credibility. We can expect the Democratic leadership to soon take action toward righting this ship because the Pennsylvania race is critical to the party re-claiming the Senate majority in the 2016 election.

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