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Polls show a dead heat in key Pennsylvania Senate primary
May 17, 2010 | 8:15 am

The race for the Democratic nomination for the Senate seat in Pennsylvania is a dead heat less than a day before the primary voting begins, according to the Quinnipiac University poll released Monday morning.

With 41% of the vote, recently minted Democrat Sen. Arlen Specter trails challenger Rep. Joe Sestak with 42%. The result, within a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points, is considered a statistical dead heat. Complicating the political picture is that 16% said they were undecided, and about one in four Democrats said they supported a candidate but could change their minds.

Specter, 80, was elected to the Senate in 1980 as a Republican but changed parties in 2009. Polls had shown he likely would lose a GOP primary to keep his seat. He is backed by the White House and most of the top Democrats in the state who saw the switch as way for Democrats to build a supermajority in the Senate.

“The Sestak-Specter race is a dead heat and could go either way. Sen. Arlen Specter has the party organization behind him, which should help with turnout. But Congressman Joe Sestak could benefit from the relatively large group of undecided voters. Generally, incumbents don't do all that well with undecideds, who are more likely to vote for the challenger or not vote,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a prepared statement.

In Arkansas, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, a Democrat, is facing a tough challenge from the more liberal Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, 49, strongly backed by labor groups. Lincoln recently revved up her campaign by focusing on attacking Wall Street and derivative trading. Polls show a runoff election is likely, with neither candidate likely to win a majority and the nomination.

In Kentucky, the GOP establishment will be tested. Most party leaders back Trey Grayson for the nomination to succeed Sen. Jim Bunning. But the tea-party movement has strongly backed Rand Paul, the son of insurgent icon Rep. Ron Paul of Texas.

The latest Public Policy Polling there shows Paul leading 52-34.
LA Times