October 21st, 2010
10:29 AM ET
8 years ago

New polls: Dead even in Pennsylvania Senate race

(CNN) - Hours after the first debate in this year's Senate battle in Pennsylvania, two new polls indicate the race is deadlocked.

According to a Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday, 48 percent of likely voters in the Keystone State say they are backing former Rep. Pat Toomey, the Republican Senate nominee, with 46 percent supporting Rep. Joe Sestak, the Democrats' nominee. Five percent are undecided. Toomey's two point margin is within the poll's sampling error. The 2 point spread is also down from a 7 point advantage in a Quinnipiac survey from late September.

A Muhlenberg College/Allentown Morning call tracking poll also out Thursday indicates the race all tied up at 43 percent each. In Muhlenberg's previous survey, conducted two weeks ago, Toomey led 46 to 39 percent. Most other recent polls also indicated Toomey with a single digit lead.

Earlier this year Sestak, a former admiral and two-term congressman from southeast Pennsylvania, came from behind in the polls to defeat Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter for their party's nomination. When Specter switched parties last year, he cited the difficulty in winning the Republican primary against Toomey as a factor. Besides his service in Congress, Toomey is also the former head of the Club for Growth, a limited-government and anti-tax organization, and he enjoys the support of many in the Tea Party movement.

In Wednesday night's debate, both candidates characterized their opponent as "extreme" on the issues. Both new polls were conducted before the debate.

Both parties are concentrating a lot of firepower on Pennsylvania. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has spent more than $4 million on ads in the state since mid August. When all is said and done, the DSCC's counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, is expected to spend roughly $5.5 million in Pennsylvania in support of Toomey, according to a GOP source.

"It's only natural that as Election Day draws closer, polls will tighten, and particularly in a state like Pennsylvania where Democrats enjoy a sizeable voter registration advantage. But that makes it even more notable that Pat Toomey continues to lead and as the early absentee ballot numbers make clear, the enthusiasm level among his supporters is off the charts. He is going to win on November 2nd," NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh tells CNN.

According to the Quinnipiac poll, Democrats are overwhelmingly backing Sestak while Republicans are equally supporting Toomey, with the GOP nominee holding a 21 point advantage among independent voters.

"Pennsylvania is a blue state and Democrats there have begun to come home," says Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "They are more engaged than they were earlier in the race. This is not unusual, especially in off-year elections. Democrats often engage later in the campaign than do Republicans. The political environment is more favorable now for them, as evidenced by President Barack Obama's improved, but still decidedly negative, job approval rating."

The Muhlenberg College poll was conducted October 10-17, with approximately 400 likely voters in Pennsylvania questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error or likely voters is plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted October 13-17, with 1,046 Pennsylvania likely voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Filed under: 2010 • Joe Sestak • Pat Toomey • Pennsylvania • Polls
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. AEJ

    Mark Mellamn of The Hill said on october 20th – "Unfortunately, CNN/Time do not reveal how they determine who is more and less likely to vote, but many firms use questions about enthusiasm even though research conducted by my firm and others demonstrates no link between an individual’s enthusiasm and his or her likelihood of turning out. So the poll may simply designate the wrong people as “likely voters.”

    October 21, 2010 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  2. Bob in PA

    Mr. Peter Brown is sadly misreading Pennsylvania.

    October 21, 2010 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. diridi

    PA, just vote for any Democrat...better than GOP thugs...

    October 21, 2010 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  4. DJ in TX

    I have been saying – this "landslide" that people are predicting probably is way overstated, especially int he senate race. This one is still a toss up, but is much closer now than most people predicted. I think the only "shoe ins' for the GOP is Ohio, Missouri and ptoentially Arkansas. Washington is a tossup, as is Nevada and Pennsylvania. Deleware is looking like a win for the Democrats, thanks to Ms. Odonell.

    October 21, 2010 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  5. Leslie

    I can't stand these "Polls", I think by putting out these negative numbers it discourages voters to vote! And by saying Obama is a "one- timer" is also a way of planting that idea in ones head.
    I hope everyone who voted for Pres. Obama last time gives him the benefit of the doubt and votes for him again! He needs to have the opportunity to finish his job!

    October 21, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  6. vic nashville tn

    Nearly 12 to 14 senate seats democrats will win

    Source from CNN election center go to the races first then go to the Polls do the math

    40 + 12 = 52 democrats will keep the senate

    CNN doesn’t believe its own source shame CNN became right wing media

    October 21, 2010 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  7. Killer`s Instinct

    20 years ago, Joe Sestak was wearing the uniform of the Navy, defending this country.

    What was Pat Tomey doing at that time? Certainly his deeds were not as selfless as those of the Admiral. Vote for the person whose actions DEMONSTRATE his commitment to America.

    That`s what the Tea Party Republicans would be saying if the shoe was on the other foot!

    October 21, 2010 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  8. Lynda/Minnesota

    Pulling for you, Sestak. Keep the momentum going... Sorry to change the subject here, but I didn't make it to the Obama thread on time...

    The better question is will there even be a 2012 election? Without Obama on the the ticket, the dems are toast. Somehow, I doubt that Howard Dean is going to make a come back. He is too controversial, too progressive, too combative, and too so not qualified. On the other side, it's highly unlikely the GOPers are going to get any consensus over their candidates either. Ought to be interesting, either way. A word of caution: let's get through THIS election cycle before we all begin stamping our feet and making our demands.

    October 21, 2010 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  9. Danny Cali

    Vote Toomey is vote for Bush and Sarah Palin Era. Let VOTE FOR DEMOCRATIC 2010.

    October 21, 2010 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  10. William Jefferson

    Toomy has not said a single thing he would do to the United States, because he knows very well that if his positions are revealed this Blue state would never even consider electing him. So he has had 5 millions in outside money spent on a scurrilous swift boat attack on Admiral Sestak while mouthing vague bumper sticker platitutdes about "less government, more jobs." tooemy is an extremists extremist. He was a tea bagger WAY before it was fashionable. He is a Wall Street insider who plans to skrew working people if he ever gets the chance.

    Sestak is a great guy, a dedicated veteran of more than 30 years in the US NAvy, he was the Admiral / commander of a carrier group in the Persian Gulf, and he has been an excellent represenative of this are of PA. He will make a great senator, and in 2016 at the end of President Obama's second term he would make a fantastic candidate to follow in the WH.

    October 21, 2010 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Is this a sign people are starting to think about the possibilities under a Republican controlled Congress?
    We can only hope! Remember how all of our problems started and tht it has only been 21 months of change before you vote.
    The question isn't are you better off today than 2008- the question is are you better off today thanin 2000- the answer will be a resounding NO!

    October 21, 2010 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |