May 4th, 2009
11:57 AM ET
14 years ago

Poll: Specter tops Republican opponent in 2010 matchup

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="A new poll handicaps Arlen Specter's general election chances in 2010 against two prominent Pennsylvania Republicans."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - A new poll of Pennsylvania voters suggests that the newest Democrat in Congress, Sen. Arlen Specter, would easily beat his old rival, Republican Pat Toomey, in Specter's battle for re-election next year.

But the Quinnipiac University survey, released Monday, indicates that Specter would have a much tougher re-election fight on his hands if he faces
off in 2010 against former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge.

Last Tuesday Specter, who has represented Pennsylvania in the Senate for nearly 30 years as a Republican, announced he was switching his party affiliation from the GOP to the Democrats.

The longtime moderate Republican said he was "anxious" to stay in the Senate, and didn't want to face a Republican primary in order to keep his seat next year.

"I was unwilling to subject my 29-year record in the U.S. Senate to the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate," Specter said Tuesday. "But I am pleased to run in the primary on the Democratic ticket and am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers in the general election."

Fifty-three percent of Pennsylvania voters say they would back Specter if their state's Senate race were held today, with 33 percent supporting Toomey. The fiscally conservative former congressman narrowly lost to Specter in the 2004 Pennsylvania Republican Senate primary and decided to take on Specter a second time after Specter was one of only three Republicans in Congress to vote for President Barack Obama's $787 billion stimulus package.

But if Specter faces off against Ridge, a popular former Pennsylvania governor before joining the Bush Administration after the September 11th attacks as the first director and then secretary of Homeland Security, the poll indicates the race, if held today, would be extremely close. Forty-six percent of those questioned back Specter, with 43 percent supporting Ridge.

CNN's Dana Bash reports that Ridge has been formally approached by the Republican establishment in Pennsylvania to try and run in next year's election. A GOP strategist tells Bash that while it would be a struggle to encourage Ridge to run, the former governor did not close the door to the suggestion in his private conversation with top state Republicans.

"Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money. But even if he gets a strong challenge from a Republican, Specter is still better off for having changed parties because he seemed headed to certain defeat had he stayed a Republican and faced Toomey in a primary," says Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

In the poll, taken after Specter's switch of parties, 56 percent of respondents approve of the job the Senator is doing, 20 points higher than the 35 percent who disapprove.

Eight out of ten Democrats approve of Specter's duties as a senator, with Independents giving him a thumbs up by a 54 to 37 percent margin. Seven out of ten Republicans questioned disapprove of Specter's job as a senator.

Forty-nine percent say Specter deserves re-election, with 41 percent saying he doesn't deserve another term in office. Six in ten feel that the 79 year old Specter is not too old to serve another six year term in the Senate.

Before next year's general election, Specter could face primary opponents. Democrat Joe Torsella, who was already in the race, said last week that he would not step aside following the news that Specter was switching parties. Torsella is the former head of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak told CNN Sunday that he wasn't sure Sen. Arlen Specter is really part of the Democratic Party, the latest in a series of tough comments aimed at his potential Senate primary rival.

"I'm not sure he's a Democrat yet," he told John King on State of the Union.

President Obama said earlier in the week that Specter had his support, with one administration official saying it took the president about "seven seconds" to make that decision.

Those remarks don't faze Sestak.

"The president has said he respects Arlen's independence…" he said. "He'll respect mine if that is the case, I know that."

In an effort to give a boost to any potential Democratic primary challenger, Specter's former colleagues in the Senate GOP launched a new campaign last week designed to highlight the consistency of his Republican record and his ties to President Bush and other party leaders.

Republican Sen. John Ensign vowed Sunday that his party will make sure Specter, the newly-minted Democrat, loses his re-election bid in 2010.

"I know as Republicans that we have some great candidates that we're recruiting out there," Ensign said on Fox News Sunday. "And we want to make sure that Arlen Specter is no longer in the United States Senate after the next election. We're going to work very hard to make sure that happens."

Specter's move could trigger a seismic shift in Washington and could be a major boon for Obama. Specter's switch gives the Democrats 59 votes in the Senate. If Democrat Al Franken wins the Minnesota Senate race, which is tied up in that state's supreme court, Democrats would have a 60-seat filibuster proof majority in the Senate.

The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted April 29-May 3, with 1,120 Pennsylvania voters questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

Filed under: Arlen Specter • Pat Toomey • Pennsylvania • Poll • Popular Posts • Tom Ridge
soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. RepubliKLANs Are Plain STUPID

    Specter knew the republican better doesn't accept moderates anymore....they only want to feed fuming-in-the-mouth, blowhard Rush Limbaugh zombies as candidates!

    Specter will win with a landslide, and the repugs better believe it that I'm voting for him 100%!!!!

    May 4, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  2. res49

    Senator Spector is your typical politician who uses the wet finger in the air approach,his only interest is in staying in office and doing or saying whatever it takes to stay there.

    May 4, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  3. jim

    Tom Ridge can't win the Republican primary either. He's too liberal. Pat Toomey has it locked up/.

    May 4, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  4. Kelby In Houston, TX

    Ha! your repuglican insults mean nothing. We all know Specter is no Dem. Heck, he doesn't even qualify for conservadem status. He voted against that bill aimed at helping struggling homeowners last week. We knew he wasn't a Dem when he left your party.
    We are happy to have him because his presence will strengthen our ranks and increase the pool of ideas we have to work with. His departure from the GOP serves as further proof that your party is no competition...At this point, you don't serve as "loyal opposition" You guys aren't even viable opposition.
    The GOP is in the midst of self destruction and headed to irrelevent obscurity.
    These words should scare you into changing. But we all know that this party is not going to change.

    May 4, 2009 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. Franky

    I see...looks like the approval of Dems and Independents is what has him winning against Toomey. And is no secret, he's called out Specter before but now since these numbers came out, is kind of like Toomey lost reinforcements. And I don't know about you but Penn did go blue in the election, maybe we should have seen that coming.

    Yeah, I think it'll be tough for Ridge to come back, I mean after all, there was gossip surrounding that he was one of the short list in McCain's V.P pick but it later proved false. I also believe one other reason why Ridge is doing so well because of the recognition, not only him but even Specter as well.

    I think it'll be tough for Ridge to come back, I'm sure he is thinking about it but I don't think he's gonna rush it, politics ain't no game and you really need time, especially in these times. And not only that but even if he was interested, he already needs to be prepare because supposedly the "tough fiscally conservative" Toomey was gonna take him down with one blow and that's because of the stimulis bill...well, there goes his answer.

    Maybe Specter is a bit smart than we give him credit...hmmmm???? He is old-school and knows the game in Penn, maybe he knows what's going on.

    May 4, 2009 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  6. Matt In WA

    Take a deep breath and re-read the article carefully.

    "...the poll indicates the race, if held today, would be extremely close. Forty-six percent of those questioned back Specter, with 43 percent supporting Ridge."

    The 'liberal media' reported it correctly. The GOP faithful have selective reading comprehension problems.

    May 4, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  7. robin kelly

    The Democrat party: home for 79 year old white lawyers who will do anything to get elected. Nice.

    May 4, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  8. New Hope PA

    Tom Ridge couldnt get elected dog catcher here.Hes a fear mongering tool.Spector will win easily.Another nail in the republican coffin.I love mondays and good news.

    May 4, 2009 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  9. John

    Spector changed parties to save his political career.

    He will likely win the next election, because of what he has accomplished for PA while in Congress.

    He'll be a moderate force in Congress, just like he always has been.

    May 4, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  10. Mat of PA

    Most of you people who don't live in Pennsylvania have no idea who Arlen Specter was up until now(especially considering a lot of you can't even spell his last name right.) We keep voting for him in Pennsylvania because we like him. He has done a great job representing us in the Senate and making decisions based on the states best interests. We will certainly support him if he was a Democrat or a Republican. You guys need to learn that you really don't have a clue of what your talking about for the most part, sorry.

    May 4, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  11. JonDie

    "...Toomey. The fiscally conservative former congressman..."

    Once again the media (in this case CNN) is making up the news rather than reporting it.

    Favoring tax cut after tax cut for the super-rich while continuing to spend and spend and spend, creating more and more and more deficit, in order to transfer more and more and more wealth from the working class to the ruling class (Toomey's actual record) does NOT make Toomey a "fiscal conservative."

    May 4, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  12. Rene

    If I were a Pennsylvanian...i certainly wouldn't vote for this guy...and i'm a democrat! How about we vote someone NEW, and refreshing? someone with 'new generational' ideas and mentality...all those old farts in congress have driven this country to the ground! I'm happy to have the democratic majority in both house & the senate.....BUT we need new people, fresh ideas (or better yet, just DIFFERENT work ethics) etc...and i personally don't trust ANY republican switching over...especially if they're doing it JUST to win an election! So when it gets too hot in the republican kitchen, this guy wants to join the dems? and he does so with a "NO" to obama's housing bill! thanks Specter and to the other 10 dems who voted against 1.7 MILLION people possibly losing their homes!

    May 4, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  13. Tim

    What CNN fails to mention is that the reason a hypothetical Specter/Ridge matchup is much closer is because Ridge, like Specter until recently, is a moderate Republican. For Republicans seeking "party purity", trading Specter for Ridge, a pro-choice moderate, is not acceptable. The next few months will be interesting in PA....will the GOP take the practical approach and go with the moderate Ridge in an effort to win? Or will the GOP eschew moderation for party purity and stick with Toomey, who stands virtually no chance to win?

    May 4, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  14. carlos

    tom ridge???????// republican, bush crony, supported mc cain........'nough said.............keep the respected Senator Specter in the senate......when will the reptiles get rid of the beener, cantor and of course, the rest of the hissing radio comedians....UGH!

    May 4, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  15. Ronald Clowney

    Arlen Specter will defeat any fiscal conservative in a general election because the majority of Americans have changed.

    May 4, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  16. Alfred E. Neumann

    At least, caught in the headlights, Specter has been forthright about his reason for switching parties – re-election which is job number one for all of Congress.

    Oh, you want to know where serving the people ranks, liberal or conservative: you'll need a Hubble telescope to spot that.

    Personal enrichment, power, celebrity status, influence and way way down somewhere in the Twilight Zone comes serving the people for which they devote, liberal or conservative, about five minutes a week.

    May 4, 2009 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  17. tinri

    Specter's move highlights the entire problem with the GOP. Good candidates who are moderates can't get through GOP closed primaries. Specter did not charge party affiliations because he thought he would loose the general election. He changed because he refused to be judged by the handful of Republican primary voters who have turned into caricatures of themselves of hard right, low information, Joe the Plumber, tea party type voters. These people who choose the republican candidates are NOT representative of the PA constituency as a whole. And that is why they are destined to be a minority party for some time.

    I'd be curious to see a primary match up poll between Toomey and Ridge. Even Ridge may be too (socially) moderate and not pure enough for the Republican primary voter.

    May 4, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  18. jaye

    I admire Specter for getting away from that awful Obstructionist Republican party..... more republicans should jump ship.

    May 4, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. James

    Spector realized that his chances where better as a Dem so he switched parties again for political advantage. His views are mostly moderate he is against gay marriage and against any ban on wepons even assualt riffles. He like Obama is on the fence on most issues as he says he is against abortion but is also for a the right to choose?

    May 4, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. KLK

    The guy is old and needs to retire.

    May 4, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  21. b franklin

    Arlen Defector is looking out only for himself. He had no intention of changing parties until polls started coming out showing him down substantially again the republican challenger. What does it say about the democratic challengers that he felt so comfortable changing parties assuming tht he will have a cake-walk to victory in the primary?

    May 4, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  22. Idiot_Peolosi

    Well, that is a poor reflection on the PENN voters. I don't care if they vote republican or find some decent independent, but to vote for a bozo who is a typical politician who only cares about being in office as opposed to serving the people.

    Either vote in the REPUB candidate, find a new DEM candidate, or some decent Independent, but don't vote for this BOZO.

    May 4, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  23. Roberto

    Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. Conservatives are absolutely clueless and blaming everyone but themselves for this, as per usual.

    The 2010 Senatorial election in my state of PA boils down to a fascist (Toomey) versus a moderate (Specter). Specter will destroy him.

    Those of you complaining about his move are simply experiencing sour grapes; your party has moved way too far to the right and you have got to get your heads out of the sand and stop pretending it's 1910.

    Even speaking as the liberal I proudly am, we need a vibrant and ideologically diverse Republican party and a healthy two-party system to function effectively as a nation.

    Reagan spoke of a "big tent". You should listen to your Holy Savior – he was actually right about this. Specter left because the tent got too small and you pushed him out in the rain.

    May 4, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  24. Tulsa L

    Specter supported Obama and the Republicans have openly said they were going get him booted out because of it ....... so now that he is democrat he will will because the state of Penn. liked him and the state sure was pretty Blue this last he will be elected again.........republicans your finished, people don't want your politics any more.......your too conservative and this country is no long marching to the tune of the conservative right wing......

    May 4, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  25. Tulsa

    to Greg in Pottstown from another story,
    You are either deaf, or just enjoy telling lies.

    President Obama never said he would pull all troops out of Iraq regardless of circumstances.

    he also never said he wouldn't raise taxes.

    I could go on too. You see, you can lie, but it just makes the case for those of us (the 80%) who don't think the Republicans can be trusted.

    May 4, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
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