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Gap in Pa. Senate Race Likely Bigger Than Reported

10:29 AM, Oct 22, 2010 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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It's not Democrats, however, but independents, who will disproportionately swing this election.  And, in that vein, Quinnipiac highlights the major reason why Sestak isn't likely to win:  independents favor Toomey by a huge margin:  21 points (56 to 35 percent).  Not only that, but the polling largely tells us why:  Among independents, only 30 percent would "like to see the next United States Senator elected from Pennsylvania generally support Barack Obama's policies"; only 30 percent approve "of the way Barack Obama is handling his job as President"; only 26 percent approve "of the way Barack Obama is handling the economy"; only 17 percent describe Pennsylvania's economy as "good" or "excellent"; and only 15 percent think Pennsylvania's economy is "getting better." 

Perhaps most telling of all, when asked whether they "feel enthusiastic, satisfied but not enthusiastic, dissatisfied but not angry, or angry" about "the way the federal government works," 43 percent of independents say they're angry, while only 1 percent say they're enthusiastic.

That leads us to the Morning Call Tracking poll.  The sample in that poll was 45 percent Democratic and 48 percent Republican -- a seemingly reasonable split.  But it included only 6 percent independents.  That's one-third as many independents as turned out in any of the past three elections in the state.  Morning Call calls this race a tie.  Maybe it will be a tie if almost all of the independents stay home.

It's as simple as this:  1. Toomey and Sestak each enjoy very similar levels of support from within their own party.  2. There's little reason to believe that Pennsylvania's turnout will favor the Democrats this time around, given that Republican turnout was within 2 points of Democratic turnout even in 2004 -- when neither party had a clear advantage in national enthusiasm or support.  3. Even in the unlikely event that the turnout does favor Democrats, Sestak would still have to overcome a huge disadvantage among independents. 

This looks like Toomey's race to lose.

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