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Toomey gaining on Specter in new poll; Sestak trails

Toomey gaining on Specter in new poll; Sestak trails

Republican Pat Toomey appears to be catching up to Senator Arlen Specter in their potential general election matchup, with Specter now topping Toomey by only 9 points, according to a new poll.

The Quinnipiac poll released this morning showed Specter holding his most narrow lead over Toomey since the longtime Senator announced he would switch parties last night. If the general election were held today, the poll found, Specter would garner 46 percent of the vote, compared to 37 percent for Toomey. A Quinnipiac poll earlier this month showed Specter leading Toomey by 20 points.

The survey of 1,191 Pennsylvania voters was also the first major independent poll to include Congressman Joe Sestak (D-7) as a candidate. Sestak, who has all but announced his intention to run against Specter in the primary, would lose badly if the race were held today. He netted only 21 percent of the vote in the poll, compared to 50 percent for Specter. If Sestak faced Toomey in a general election, he would win by only two points, within the margin of error. But at such an early stage, Sestak’s numbers are little more than a reflection of his lack of statewide name recognition.

Specter’s narrowing lead over Toomey could signal that the former conservative Congressman is benefiting from a largely empty Republican primary field while Specter is under increasing scrutiny from his new party.

“[Specter’s] numbers have slipped since the controversy that followed his switch to the Democratic Party, but he’s still better off than he would have been if he stayed a Republican and faced a tough primary challenge from [Toomey],” Quinnipiac polling assistant director Clay Richards said in a statement.

The poll also showed Toomey in good position against his most likely primary challenger, Congressman Jim Gerlach (R-6). Toomey would beat Gerlach 38 percent to 10 percent if the race were held today, the poll found. Conservative activist Peg Luksik would net 3 percent of the vote.

The survey was conducted May 20-26, before news broke yesterday that Sestak is almost certainly running for Senate. It has a margin of error of 2.8 percent.

Click here for the full poll.

May 28, 2009 at 7:39 am

--Dan Hirschhorn

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