Republican hopeful Pat Toomey for the first time registers 50% support in his race against incumbent Democrat Arlen Specter in Pennsylvania’s contest for the U.S. Senate.
The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in the state shows Specter earning 40% of the vote, a level he’s held steady at since the first of the year. Four percent (4%) prefer some other candidate, and six percent (6%) are undecided.
Toomey this month also makes his strongest showing to date against Specter’s Democratic Primary challenger, Congressman Joe Sestak. Toomey picks up 47% support to Sestak’s 36%. Given this match-up, five percent (5%) like another candidate, and 12% are undecided.
Fifty-three percent (53%) of Pennsylvania voters say the recently passed health care plan is bad for the country and just 36% think its impact will be good. In June of last year, before the health care debate began in earnest, Specter had an eleven-point advantage over Toomey. But support for the senator plummeted to 36% in August after his town hall meetings with Pennsylvania voters angry over the specifics of the health care plan. Since then, support for Specter has never risen above 42%.
Sixty percent (60%) of Pennsylvania voters favor repealing the just-passed health care plan while 37% are opposed. Those figures include 47% who strongly favor repeal and 28% who are strongly opposed.
This plays to Toomey’s advantage since 84% of those who strongly favor repeal support his candidacy, while 82% who strongly oppose repeal back Specter. There’s a similar spread to the Republican’s advantage when Sestak is the Democrat in the race.
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Support for Sestak has remained in the narrow range of 35% to 38% in surveys since last October. But he’s gained ground among likely Democratic Primary voters and now trails Specter by a negligible 44% to 42% in the race for the party’s Senate nomination. Democratic voters pick their nominee in a May 18 primary.
Toomey’s support has risen steadily over the months through the low 40s to 49% last month.
Toomey leads both Democrats among male voters by nearly 20 points and edges them slightly among women. Among voters not affiliated with either party, he leads Specter by 31 points and Sestak by 21.
Voter backlash already has prompted Specter, a GOP senator for nearly 30 years, to switch parties last spring just after a Rasmussen Reports poll showed him trailing Toomey by 21 points in a state Republican Primary match-up.
Specter was one of only three Republicans in the Congress to vote for President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus plan in February of last year. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Pennsylvania Republicans said at the time that they were less likely to vote for Specter because of his support for the stimulus package.
Toomey is viewed very favorably by 18% of voters in the state and very unfavorably by 10%.
For Specter, who has represented Pennsylvania in the Senate since 1981, very favorables are 16% and very unfavorables are 33%.
Ten percent (10%) have a very favorable view of Sestak, a retired Navy admiral serving his first term in Congress, while 12% regard him very unfavorably.
At this point in a campaign, Rasmussen Reports considers the number of people with strong opinions more significant than the total favorable/unfavorable numbers.
Forty-one percent (41%) of Pennsylvania voters favor the requirement in the new health care plan that every American buy or obtain health insurance, with 24% who strongly favor it. Fifty-five percent (55%) oppose the requirement, including 42% who strongly oppose.
Forty-seven percent (47%) support Pennsylvania’s lawsuit against the federal government challenging the constitutionality of that requirement, but 39% oppose the suit.
Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters in the Keystone State say their views on the major issues of the day are closer to those of the average Tea Party member than those of Obama. Forty percent (40%) say their views are more like the president’s. Those figures are similar to the national average.
Forty-six percent (46%) are at least somewhat concerned that those opposed to the president’s policies will resort to violence, but 50% do not share that concern.
As for the economy, eight percent (8%) rate it good or excellent, while 50% view it as poor. Thirty-six percent (36%) say the economy is getting better, but 37% say it’s getting worse. Twenty-one percent (21%) expect it to stay about the same.
Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe offshore oil drilling should be allowed. Forty-nine percent (49%) favor drilling off the coasts of California and New England, but 26% disagree. Still, 43% say states should have the right to ban drilling off their own coastlines, while 36% feel otherwise. Again, the views of Pennsylvania voters are similar to the national mood.
Obama won Pennsylvania in the 2008 election with 55% of the vote. Forty-six percent (46%) of voters in the state now approve of his performance as president, with 29% who strongly approve. Fifty-four percent (54%) disapprove of the president’s job performance, including 42% who strongly disapprove. These findings are in line with those nationally in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll.
Forty-two percent (42%) now approve of how Democratic Governor Ed Rendell is performing, down five points from a month ago, while 56% disapprove. This includes 13% who strongly approve and 32% who strongly disapprove.
In 2008, Rasmussen Reports projected nationally that Obama would defeat John McCain by a 52% to 46% margin. Obama won 53% to 46%. Four years earlier, Rasmussen Reports projected the national vote totals for both George W. Bush and John Kerry within half-a-percentage-point.
In Pennsylvania during the 2008 campaign, Rasmussen Reports polling showed Obama winning the state by a 52% to 46% margin. Obama won 55% to 44%. Four years earlier, Rasmussen Reports polling showed Kerry leading Bush in Pennsylvania 49% to 47%. Kerry won 51% to 49%.
In the 2006 Pennsylvania governor’s race, Rasmussen polling showed Rendell defeating Lynn Swan 56% to 38%. Rendell won 60% to 40%. In the 2006 race for U.S. Senate, Rasmussen polling showed Bob Casey defeating Rick Santorum 55% to 42%. Casey won 59% to 41%.