[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/03/25/art.getty.specter.reporters.jpg caption="As Sen. Arlen Specter gets ready to run for a sixth term next year, two new polls offer mixed signals on just how hard a road to re-election the Pennsylvania Republican faces."](CNN) - As Sen. Arlen Specter gets ready to run for a sixth term next year, two new polls offer mixed signals on just how hard a road to re-election the Pennsylvania Republican faces.
A Quinnipiac University survey of registered Pennsylvania voters released Wednesday suggests Specter trails conservative Pat Toomey in a hypothetical Republican primary matchup by a 41 to 27 percent margin, with 28 percent unsure. But a Franklin and Marshall College poll released the same day indicates that Specter leads Toomey 33 percent to 18 percent, with 7 percent for other candidates and 42 percent unsure. While the Franklin and Marshall survey suggests that Specter leads in the matchup, 51 percent of Republicans questioned in that poll believe its time for a change rather than see Specter re-elected.
In the Republican primary six years ago, Specter narrowly edged out Toomey, at the time a three term member of the House of Representatives. Nowadays Toomey is the president of the Club for Growth, a conservative political organization that raises money for candidates who support a low tax and limited government agenda. Toomey is inching closer to a rematch with Specter.
Specter was one of only three Republican lawmakers in Congress who supported President Barack Obama's stimulus plan. His vote in favor of the stimulus, along with fellow Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, were crucial to the passage of the bill.
The Quinnipiac poll suggests that Specter is paying a political price for his support of the stimulus. The survey indicates that Specter has an overall approval rating of 52 percent, but that drops to 36 percent among Republicans. Seven out of ten Democrats approve of how Specter's handling his job as senator. Eight-seven percent of Democrats support Specter's vote on the stimulus, while seven out of ten Republican disapprove of his vote.
"The polls seem in rough agreement on one key measure - Specter's current support among Pennsylvania Republicans is somewhere between 27 percent and 33 percent, well under the 50 percent mark that political junkies believe is important for incumbents who hope to be re-elected," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "So whether Specter is ahead of Toomey or trailing him, the two polls aren't good news for the Senator. On the other hand, both polls have a large number of undecided voters, and they ask about a hypothetical match-up that is a year away. We shouldn't read too much into either survey."
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted March 19-23, with 1,056 Pennsylvania voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. The Franklin and Marshall College poll was conducted March 17-22, with 662 Pennsylvania voters questioned by telephone. The sampling error for that poll is plus or minus 4 percentage points.