Tag Archives: Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania Tightens

Public Policy Polling (PPP), the national survey research firm based in Raleigh, N.C., yesterday released a new study (10/17-18, 718 likely PA voters) that gives Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak (PA-7) a bare 46-45% lead over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-PA-15) in their battle for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat. This represents a significant change from all other recently released polls, including ones from PPP, that have previously posted Toomey to leads of between two and 10 points.

The revelation that the Sestak-Toomey campaign is closing is not particularly surprising for various reasons. First, Pennsylvania is a Democratic state, so seeing the Senate race and several House campaigns begin to move back toward the majority party meets expectations. Private polling suggests that the contests in PA-7 (open Sestak), ex-US Attorney Pat Meehan (R) vs. state Rep. Bryan Lentz (D); PA-8, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) vs. former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R); and PA-10, Rep. Chris Carney (D) vs. ex-US Attorney Tom Marino (R); also are tightening in favor of the Democratic candidate after the GOP contestant maintained discernible, if not considerable, previous advantages. Conversely, the PA-3, Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper (D) vs. Mike Kelly (R); and PA-11, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D) vs. Lou Barletta (R); races still appear to be going the way of the GOP challenger. Polling now detects that Democratic voters are expressing greater interest in voting, thus suggesting better electoral participation rates.

Second, Sestak’s strategy for the general election is similar to that of his primary: wait to spend the campaign treasury until people are paying attention much closer to the election. During the Democratic primary, the Congressman trailed party-switching Sen. Arlen Specter by as much as 10 points early, but caught and passed the veteran politician as voting day approached and finally arrived. Sestak is implementing a replay of such an expenditure timing plan against Toomey, thus his recent polling upswing tracks with him now coming to the forefront of the advertising campaign.

The latest poll tells us that the Senate race, despite a continued strong GOP lead in the Governor’s race, is coming back into toss-up range. The final outcome will likely be determined upon which party better motivates its supporters to actually cast their ballots, thus the end result is still very much in doubt.

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An Eclectic Collection of Mid-October Polls: Reliable?

More mid-October polls are now public from races across the nation, many from unfamiliar survey firms or sources. Below are several of the most notable with an analysis as to the believability of the results:

GA-2: Lester & Associates (10/7-10; 500 GA-2 voters for the Sanford Bishop campaign)

Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) …… 50%
Mike Keown (R) ………………. 40%

Rep. Bishop released his internal poll after GOP challenger Keown’s late September Public Opinion Strategies survey posted him to within one point. This is a heavy African-American district, meaning a loyal Democratic base. A low black turnout is Keown’s only chance to come through on Election Day.

IL-10: We Ask America (10/15; 1,148 likely voters; automated)

Bob Dold (R) ……….. 50%
Dan Seals (D) ………. 39%

This race has been a bit of a mystery ever since the February 2nd primary. Just last week another poll (Penn Schoen – 10/2-7) went public showing Democratic nominee Seals to be holding a similar 49-37% advantage. We Ask America has conducted sporadic polls in several states. Their reliability track record is virtually unknown. Best guess: the race is a toss-up. Dold must have a favorable turnout model to achieve victory. Though the district has elected a Republican congressman for more than 30 consecutive years, the voting trends here lean Democratic in other races.

MN-1: Survey USA (10/12-14; 584 likely voters; automated from a pool of 800 registered MN-1 voters)

Rep. Tim Walz (D) ……….. 47%
Randy Demmer (R) ………. 42%

Survey USA has reported many polls this election cycle that have been out of the mainstream, and tending to favor Republicans. In this case, however, the poll results seem reasonable. Though state Rep. Randy Demmer is being heavily outspent by two-term incumbent Tim Walz, the district can certainly elect a Republican. Former Rep. Gil Gutknecht, for example, held the seat for twelve years, winning in the GOP landslide year of 1994 and losing in the 2006 Democratic sweep. If 2010 becomes a wave, this district could yield another surprise.

PA-7: Franklin & Marshall College (10/5-11; 471 likely PA-7 voters; live telephone interviews)

Pat Meehan (R) ………… 34%
Bryan Lentz (D) ……….. 31%

PA-8: Monmouth University (10/11-13; 646 likely PA-8 voters; automated)

Mike Fitzpatrick (R) ……………. 51%
Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) ……… 46%

Two college polls with differing degrees of reliability. The Franklin & Marshall survey period is extended, thus making the results less accurate. The fact that the undecided factor is still so high as the race becomes better defined also raises questions. The spread – Meehan leading, but his margin tightening – is consistent with many other surveys.

The Monmouth poll appears to be tighter, even with the automated format. This result is very consistent with other data that shows former Rep. Fitzpatrick to be leading beyond the margin of error in his attempt to regain the seat he lost to Congressman Murphy four years ago.

When Will it End?

As we pull to within less than three weeks of the election, the Democrats appear to be in a free-fall. Nevada GOP Senatorial candidate Sharron Angle, opposing unpopular Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, raised a huge amount of money –– $14 million from July 1st to September 30th — an impressive haul for any candidate, but especially so for one from a small state. It’s even more stunning when you note that 94% of the money came from contributions of less than $100. In Florida, Senate GOP candidate Marco Rubio brought in more than $5 million for the quarter. In liberal Washington, Republican Dino Rossi locked in a tight battle with Sen. Patty Murray (D), exceeded $4.5 million.

In the House races, Reps. Gene Taylor (D-MS-4), Heath Shuler (D-NC-11), Walt Minnick (D-ID-1) and Bobby Bright (D-AL-2) are publicly saying they will vote for someone other than embattled House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8), when the new Congress convenes. Reps. Chet Edwards (D-TX-17), Jason Altmire (D-PA-4) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2) have ads expressing their independence from Pelosi and President Obama. Rep. Bill Owens (D-NY-23), in serious trouble because the split among local Republicans and Conservatives has ostensibly healed and Matt Doheny now has virtually united support from the right-of-center, launched a rather desperate new ad saying that he “votes with the Republican leader 63% of the time.” These are obvious signs of a party in trouble.

And new competitive congressional races are popping up every day. Now the list is even reaching protected voting rights districts like AZ-7 (Rep. Raul Grijalva in a close contest with scientist Ruth McClung), and TX-27 (Rep. Solomon Ortiz actually trailing Republican opponent Blake Farenthold in both a campaign-released survey and a private independent poll).

All of these anecdotes are similar to what we were seeing for Democrats in both 2006 and 2008, and the results, as we all know, were landslide elections. Right now, it appears that Republican House candidates are likely to win in the neighborhood of 35 Democratically-held seats, with another 30 or so in range to win. The Democrats will at least pick up two GOP seats, and maybe as many as five. Thus, the GOP approaching or exceeding a 50-seat gain is not out of the question, and reclaiming the majority appears to be on the horizon.

Senate Republicans Need to Pitch a Perfect Game

With speculation about the outcome of next month’s national election now rising to a fever pitch, it is important to take a step back and analyze what must happen for Republicans to wrest the Senate away from majority Democrats. While prospects of a House GOP takeover appear plausible, can the party also realistically paint the picture of a Senate Republican majority?

The defeat of At-Large Rep. Mike Castle in the Delaware Republican primary may have been a killer blow to GOP majority prospects. In every formula leading to a national Republican win, Delaware figured prominently. Now, factoring a Democratic hold of the First State, can Republicans still achieve majority status? Mathematically, such an outcome is possible, but …

To obtain 51 seats in the chamber, the Republicans will now have to win 17 of the 18 most competitive states — a situation that allows for only the slightest margin of error. To begin, the Republicans must first hold all of their six competitive open seats, beginning with the new three-way contest in Alaska. Florida’s Marco Rubio appears to have the inside track in Florida, and Rand Paul clings to a single-digit lead over state Attorney General Jack Conway in Kentucky. GOP candidates in Missouri, New Hampshire and Ohio all must win, and each appears poised for victory at this time.

If the Republicans secure those six contests, then they must convert all three Democratic states that decidedly appear headed their way. The North Dakota open seat seems to be the strongest of all conversion opportunities; Gov. John Hoeven is a lock to be the next Senator. Arkansas’ Blanche Lincoln may become the first incumbent to lose re-election on November 2nd, trailing Rep. John Boozman by double digits for months. The comeback bid of Indiana former Sen. Dan Coats is also strong, as he consistently leads his Democratic opponent by large margins.

It is important to remember that Republicans must win all nine of these races, merely to put the tougher contests into play. If you presume nine victories in the aforementioned races, the party will have only gained three net seats against the Democratic number, taking them from 41 to 44. Two more Dem states seem to be leaning Republican — Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.

The next tier of campaigns is even more intense. The current toss-up races feature Colorado, Illinois and Nevada. All of these campaigns are tight and have been for months.

Reviewing the potential Republican majority track, the GOP, at this point, must win every race previously listed. But, even if they are victorious in all 14 of the aforementioned, they are still not finished. Four more competitive campaigns remain, and the GOP would have to win two more in order to reach 51 seats. Tight races remain in California, Connecticut, Washington and West Virginia; half of these must go Republican for them to claim majority status.

The Republicans will literally have to throw a perfect game on November 2nd in order to win the Senate; but such an outcome, while still unlikely, is not impossible.

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As the Senate Races Turn …

As we enter the final month of the 2010 election cycle, the Senate races are beginning to fully define themselves.

We now believe that only three of the 37 campaigns can be labeled as pure toss-ups, down from five. The three are the Nevada race featuring Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid versus former state Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, the Illinois open seat campaign with state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL-10) doing battle, and in West Virginia where Gov. Joe Manchin (D) and businessman John Raese (R) are locked in a much closer than expected special election campaign to succeed the late Sen. Robert Byrd.

Overall, Republicans now appear positioned to win 24 of the in-cycle Senate races compared to the Democrats’ ten. This would decrease the Democrats strength in the chamber to 50 with the three undecided campaigns still on the board. Republicans would gain a net of six seats under these calculations, bringing their total to 47.

Under this model the Democrats would retain the majority, but would have no more than 53 seats and as few as 50, depending upon the resolution of the Nevada and Illinois races.

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