The new Quinnipiac poll of Pennsylvania finds that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) is in fairly decent shape going into his 2010 election campaign post-party switch, but there could be some vulnerabilities for Republicans to exploit if they play their cards right.
Against Pat Toomey, the conservative former Congressman whose primary challenge spurred Specter’s switch, Specter leads in the general election by a whopping 53% to 33%. Specter’s calculation appears to be correct, that he would have lost a Republican primary to Toomey but would also win big in a general election.However, it’s a different story when put up against moderate former GOP Gov. Tom Ridge. Here Specter leads by only 46% to 43%. The question appears to be whether the Republicans can successfully nominate a moderate who would be a stronger candidate, or whether Toomey is guaranteed a win based on heavy conservative support.
The checks-and-balances argument could potentially have some cache for the GOP, based on this question: “With Arlen Specter switching to the Democratic Party, the Democrats could have enough votes in the Senate to block any filibusters by the Republicans. Do you think that is a good thing or a bad thing?” Only 41% said this was a good thing, and 49% said it was a bad thing. This is despite President Obama’s 66%-29% approval rating, too.
On the other hand, two other questions show that Specter is in good shape. First, his approval rating is 56%-36%. Second, check out the response on this question: “Some people say that by switching to the Democratic party Senator Specter is being disloyal to the Republican Party. Do you agree or disagree?” An answer of agreement on this question is basically a tautology — and yet only 39% said so, to 57% who disagreed.
Late Update: Toomey communications director Nachama Soloveichik gives us this statement:
“This is a statement of the obvious fact that Pat Toomey is not yet well known by statewide general election voters. Where he is well known – by general election voters in the swing 15th District – and by statewide Republicans, he is overwhelmingly popular.
In the next 18 months, voters across the Commonwealth will learn the differences between Toomey and Specter on critical issues like the Wall Street bailouts, unsustainable spending and who will stand in the way of massive one-party rule in Washington. When they do, we’re confident that Pennsylvanians will take the side of fiscal responsibility.”