On the same day Philadelphia businessman Tom Knox drops out of the race for Pennsylvania Governor Pat Toomey expands his lead on two other Democratic hopefuls for high office.
In the race for Senate Republican Toomey has increased his lead from four points over Arlen Specter and six over Congressman Joe Sestak to advantages of nine and eight points respectively. The survey from Rasmussen Reports also indicates that prior to switching parties earlier last year Senator Specter was trailing by over twenty-points to Toomey. The political environment has continued to sour for Democrats in the months since and the party is currently reeling from a damaging special-election Senate defeat in Massachusetts on Tuesday.
Specter’s troubles are more with his tarnished reputation outside his current party than with Democrats. Just 16% view him favorably against a third of the Pennsylvania electorate (33%) who hold an unfavorable view. Joe Sestak who is currently running a point better against the Republican challenger than Specter is running far behind the veteran Senator in their primary battle, 53-32%. Sestak also has failed to obtain strong levels of support or recognition amongst voters. His very favorable numbers top out at eight-percent against eleven-percent who view him very unfavorably in the Keystone State, meaning four in five voters have either lukewarm feelings or still do not know enough about the Seventh District Congressman.
Toomey meanwhile also struggles from strong name recognition but does attract slightly more favorable support (12%) than unfavorable (10%). Larry J. Sabato’s is a contributor to Rasmussen. His famous “Chrystal Ball” that almost perfectly predicted the 2006 midterms election in the both the House and Senate places the race in Pennsylvania in the toss-up category. He does suggest however that the advantage leans toward Toomey. In fact if the midterm elections were held today the Democrat’s majority in the U.S. Senate would drop to 52-seats according to Sabato’s polling.
Another notable pollster, Nate Silver from Fivethirtyeight.com proposes a slightly rosier outlook for Democrats in November as he gives the party in power a good chance of securing at least 53 or 54 Senate seats. In Pennsylvania however his current assessment shows the Senate seat leaning toward Pat Toomey and gives the Republican a 72% chance of victory. In total of the 36 races statistically analyzed by Silver at Fivethirtyeight twenty-four show Republicans with a lead of at least three-percentage points to just eleven where the Democrats are out in front – polls show Illinois deadlocked.
Back to Pennsylvania politics, 57% oppose the healthcare reform bill now in peril and better than two-thirds (67%) are concerned over the possibility of another terrorist attack this year. Like most of the country Pennsylvanians are down on the economy and pessimistic about its rebound in the near future. Just five-percent rate it as good or excellent against 51% who say it is poor. Furthermore 31% think it’s getting better but 42% claim it is getting worse.
Tom Knox stepping out of the race for Governor and offering up his support to rival Dan Onorato was perhaps equal parts a desperate and selfless act. With the three other candidates in the Democratic primary quickly dismissing the idea of doing the same, the dichotomy helps sum up the current political landscape for Democrats; United on certain fronts, fractured in others and heading into an autumn election season with plenty of unease and uncertainty.
AP PHOTO: ASSOCIATED PRESS / MATT ROURKE