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Yet Another Good Poll For Joe Sestak


...and this one is from the non-partisan Muhlenberg/Morning Call poll:
Joe Sestak has pulled ahead of Pat Toomey after trailing for months in their closely watched Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race, an independent poll confirms.

Democrat Sestak now leads Republican Toomey 44 percent to 41 percent with 15 percent undecided, a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College Tracker poll shows.

The numbers are the first from a nonpartisan source to confirm the race has tightened two weeks before Election Day.

[snip]

In May, the same tracking poll was the first to show Sestak catching and eventually surpassing U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary. A tracking poll shows who's ahead and by how much each day until the election.

Many experts credited the Delaware County congressman's victory over Specter to an electorate unhappy with the 30-year incumbent senator, not because they were overly impressed with the younger, upstart Navy admiral.

But maybe Sestak's political prowess is vastly underestimated. He's an unconventional campaigner and less-than-stellar orator, but he plays the part of tenacious underdog well.

"He's off the charts in terms of his energy and work ethic," Muhlenberg pollster Chris Borick said. "There is something to be said for sheer tenacity."

Republicans are expected to make gains across the country this mid-term election by capitalizing on nationwide frustration with the slow pace of the economy. Toomey's message of smaller government and fewer taxes seems to be resonating even in Pennsylvania, which tilts Democratic.

It's hard to explain Sestak's latest apparent comeback. There's a sense that faithful Democrats are paying closer attention in the closing weeks as President Barack Obama crisscrosses the country making the case for keeping Democrats in charge.

And Sestak's campaign appears adept at using an opponent's own words against him in political TV ads. On air now is a commercial showing Toomey, a former Lehigh Valley congressman, saying his voting record is "hard to distinguish from Rick Santorum's."
Well, if Pat Toomey is "hard to distinguish from Rick Santorum", then Sestak has this one in the bag. Pennsylvanians did not like him in 2006.

However, I think that the most interesting factor in this poll is not that Sestak has gained and surpassed Toomey -- but rather that the data is coming from a non-partisan pollster.

With the recent polling data coming from Democratic-leaning pollsters, I have been more-than-somewhat skeptical at the results. When you add the Muhlenberg/Morning Call poll into the mix, I am wont to take a closer look at the trend lines.

Moreover, what will this type of polling do for the respective campaigns? I think that two varying arguments can be made here...

1) Perhaps most obviously, all of these recent polls could greatly help Sestak's campaign. The positive press that he gets can/will surely boost his perceived electability with moderate and independent voters, not to mention Democrats.

2) But what of the possible negative impact of these types of polls? What happens if Democrats -- who are already predisposed to feelings of electoral malaise -- see the positive numbers for Sestak and decide to "sit this one out"? According to these polls, Sestak may be catching up to Toomey, but it is still clear that Sestak needs every vote that he can get. If Democrats get lazy or feelings of indifference, then the election will undoubtedly go to Toomey.

The bottom line is this: no matter how many polling outfits swing favorability to Joe Setak, I think that this election is Pat Toomey's to lose. Sestak was a relative unknown when the general election campaign started. Everyone, including Yours Truly, thought that this election was going to be between Pat Toomey and Arlen Specter -- but Sestak beat Specter in the primary and now all bets are off.

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Photo: Harry Hamburg/AP photo