Morning Jay: Special Senate Edition!
6:30 AM, Oct 20, 2010 • By JAY COST
1. Senate Races Get Closer. Public Policy Polling made big headlines yesterday with a poll showing Democrat Joe Sestak in the lead over Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania Senate battle. Last week, Hotline On Call noticed the NRSC starting to amp up its commitment to Toomey. Late last night, a new Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll also finds him in the lead.
Pennsylvania thus joins a number of races that have tightened noticeably in the last few weeks. A Republican lead in Colorado has been cut down.
Ditto a GOP lead in Kentucky.
On the flip side, however, we have seen a Democratic lead in Washington state begin to shrink.
Additionally, Barbara Boxer's lead in California is all but gone.
My guess is that relatively little of this is actual movement toward one side or the other, but rather the consequence of an electorate finally getting engaged in the campaign. Polls give us an impression of how a political campaign is going, but it is not a complete picture because the electorate is not always engaged, and polls fail to capture that beyond the percentage of "undecided" voters. The problem is that lots of people who claim to be decided in the summer are actually undecided, or support one candidate or another in a very shallow way. As the campaign begins, there is "movement" in the numbers, but really that is a consequence of a disengaged electorate beginning to pay closer attention.
We saw something like this happen in the Democratic primary Senate battle in Pennsylvania in the Spring. Arlen Specter had a large lead, but it's better to say he had a large "lead," as it was based upon the shallow impressions of a disengaged electorate. As the electorate started to pay more attention, it "moved" toward Sestak. A similar process explains how Hillary Clinton could have a 25 point lead in June, 2007 but lose the Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in June, 2008.