Poll: Ridge Leads Toomey In 2010 Pennsylvania Senate Primary -- By A Landslide
A new poll of Pennsylvania from Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies shows that former Gov. Tom Ridge (R-PA), who is reportedly considering a bid for the Senate seat now held by Republican-turned-Democrat Arlen Specter, would currently lead conservative candidate Pat Toomey in a 60%-23% landslide for the Republican primary.
Toomey's big lead over Specter in the primary polls spurred the incumbent to switch parties, which in turn created the question of whether the Republicans were guaranteed Toomey as the nominee, or whether another Republican could take him. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who is also vice chair of the NRSC, has openly said Toomey cannot win, so the establishment could understandably be eager for someone else. And if Ridge gets in, they just might have it.
Another key finding: In a general election match-up, Ridge currently leads Specter by 48%-41%, compared to Toomey trailing Specter by 49%-40%. The big question is whether Ridge's support is truly solid, or whether going through an actual campaign could wear him down through attacks coming from the right. (See an early sample of that right here.)
From the pollster's analysis, which reads practically like a draft movement's exhortation for Ridge to get in:
But, the strength of Ridge's candidacy is remarkable - fully two-thirds of voters in the state have a favorable impression of him, he leads the GOP primary by nearly 40 points, and he's leading the incumbent US Senator by seven points on the ballot.Late Update: Toomey spokesperson Nachama Soloveichik has issued this statement:
Tom Ridge would be a very significant obstacle in Arlen Specter's drive for re-election
"This is a poll commissioned by Specter supporters and conducted by Specter's polling firm. It's not surprising that it would show their preferred candidate ahead. Tom Ridge is an honorable person, with very high name ID, so there's no doubt he would begin a campaign with high poll numbers. But in the one year's time in which Republican primary voters would come to know the countless similarities between the voting records of Ridge and Specter, attitudes toward the former governor would undoubtedly change. Pat Toomey is the candidate with the consistent record of standing up for taxpayers that is needed to win the GOP primary, who has a track record of winning general elections in Democratic-leaning areas, and who even this poll shows is within close striking distance of Specter in the general election."
The poll was commissioned by an RNC member from Pennsylvania. And while it's true that POS was Specter's pollster for years, they very publicly severed ties with him after he switched parties.
Sestak: We Don't Need The GOP's Benedict Arnolds
Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) hasn't been shy about criticizing Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) for switching parties last week, but his harshest words came last night in an interview with TPMDC: "He left the fight," said the former admiral and highest ranking military man ever to serve in Congress. "In the military, we just don't leave fights."
Sestak's shot at Specter comes amid grassroots grumbling that the deal Democratic leaders struck to get Specter to defect from the GOP cost the party a shot at putting a real liberal in the seat in 2010.
"I can't figure out...why the deal was done," Sestak told me, saying he's concerned that the party was so quick to embrace Specter for reasons of "expediency," and without regard to the needs of Pennsylvania voters. "It isn't Washington's prerogative to tell us what to do," Sestak insisted.
I asked him whether he'd been on the receiving end of establishment pressure -- from people like Vice President Joe Biden and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell -- to stay out of the race, and he insisted, "I haven't heard from anyone."
While Democrats from the While House on down might be trying to keep the Democratic primary field clear for Specter, they might not necessarily mind the fact that, for the time being, Sestak is applying pressure on Specter to move left. By keeping the door open to challenging Specter in the Democratic primary, Sestak may serve to nudge Specter further than he might otherwise have gone. Yesterday, Sestak told Greg Sargent that if Specter "doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in" to a primary fight against him.
I asked Sestak what those issues were beyond EFCA, and he proceeded to list just about every major item on the Democratic agenda: Economic security for Pennsylvanians--Specter voted for the Bush tax cuts; health reform--which Specter helped derail in the 1990s; education--reducing costs, and increasing quality so that Pennsylvania doesn't compete with Florida for the honor of being the oldest state in the union; the environment; and national defense--Specter voted, of course, for the Iraq war.
But according to Sestak, even if Specter moves in the right direction, the more important question is whether or not he'll actually stick to those new positions going forward. If Specter's re-elected, he'll be senator (potentially) until 2016, and Sestak worries he won't be reliable over time.
Interestingly, though, there may not be much daylight between Specter and Sestak on at least one of these issues. Sestak says he's still unsure whether he supports a public health insurance option as an element of comprehensive health reform. He plans to discuss the issue further with SEIU president Andy Stern and others and come to a decision in the coming weeks, but if he ultimately comes down against that policy, he'll be in just about the same camp as his new rival, who came out against a public option over the weekend. Obviously that means less in the House (where Sestak serves) than it does in the Senate (where Specter potentially wields enormous influence), but no less a figure than Howard Dean has said that comprehensive health reform requires a public option.
Last night, Stern told ABC news that "[i]t is hard to imagine any union supporting a candidate in the Democratic Party for the US Senate who doesn't have strong positions on both healthcare and Employee Free Choice," and this morning he sent out the message "Sestak is serious about Senate race" on Twitter.
TOM RODGE FOR SONOT
in all seriousness I think he makes a good candidate because despite the Bush connection governors seem to do really well as Senators. It could flip turn the Pennsylvania senate race upside down