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. Michael

    Republicans screaming about Specter are amusingly unaware how much they sound like Stalin; they would have liked to send Specter to the gulag for failing to obey Rush Limbaugh.
    Specter switched parties because we have a representative form of government that values individual freedom, whether the GOP likes it or not.
    Today's Republicans are like the Puritans, who came to America for the freedom to make everyone practice religion their way. That's the problem with fundamentalists: they will never concede the possibility that there might be another valid point of view.

    May 4, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  2. JLS

    When he was asked yesterday on Meet the Press, if there were any considerations given him by the democrats, he stated "No". When asked how he kept his chairmanship position, he said it wasn't a bribe but an entitlement. Why would he be entitled to anything?? And why isn't anyone in the media questioning him on it?

    May 4, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. gl, Pittsburgh

    Yes, I will be one of them voting and working on Specter campaign. I am a Dem and always voted for Specter, plus I work in the same building were his Pittsburgh office is. He is a good and fair Senator.

    May 4, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  4. Michael Shea

    I think Arlen Spector did the right thing. I have always thought he should switch parties. I am a union man and specter halways received the union endorsement.

    The Republican Party has become a white male fundamtalist Christian Party. It ias close to being Fascist as it's ever been.

    I believe it will onl be a matter of time before Sen Lympia Snow and Se, Suan Collins of Maine jump ship.

    May 4, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  5. Specter Senate Seat fo Sale

    Pennsylvania Democratic voters are in a lose-lose situation should Specter get reelected as a Democrat.

    If he loses, then Pennsylvania Democrats will have squandered an opportunity to seat a Democrat on the coat tails of Obama's popularity

    If he wins, they will have elected a seat for hire as Specter has no principled values apparent by his sudden embracement of the democratic party simply to win a final term, and as this will likely be his last Senate term, he will likely vote as a Republican moderate as he has for 30 years, so Democrats will get what they asked for – A moderate Republican masquerading as a Democrat.

    May 4, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. joe smith

    if you think ridge was a bush croney, this guy backed bush/cheney to the hilt, he knew where his re-election money was coming from, all the defense contractors in the us, and yes, the defense contractors in israel, go rosen/weisman..

    May 4, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  7. michael

    Doug, New Jersey

    Check out a map, PA is a lot bigger than just Philadelphia.

    May 4, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  8. Andy in Texas

    Arlen Defector? Keep whining about the fact that he switched and don't ask yourself what it means that he beats Toomey hands down in a general election but loses in a GOP primary. Keep focusing on him and not on your own party. The hardcore conservatives are doing more to destroy the GOP than anyone could have hoped for.

    May 4, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  9. Democrats have no principles

    By embracing Arlen Specter, a lifelong Republican, the Democrats have shown they will do anything to gain a majority in the Senate. Arlen Specter is no more a Democrat than John McCain or George Bush. Specter has openly stated that the only reason he is switching parties is to get relected as he realized he would not win in a Republican primary. Well, if the GOP did not want them, I am laughing at the Democrats for embracing him. Once in office, Specter will be in his last term, and he will return to the GOP - a nice "in your face" to Obama and the democratic Party. And even if he does not return to GOP after being elected, he will conduct himself and vote as he has for 30 years - as a Republican. Did anyone notice that AFTER he announced his party change, he did not vote for the Democratic trillion dollar budget - sort of a prelude of things to come should he win reelection.

    May 4, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  10. Still the WRONG PARTY.

    The problem with Mr Ridge? HE'S A REPUBLICAN... NUFF SAID....

    May 4, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  11. Rich Greer

    It seems like everyone is certain that Specter will win the Democratic primary. I'm not so sure. He is going to have a hard time winning Democratic support if he continues to oppose Card Check and key aspects of Health Care Reform.

    Any good Democrat should be able to beat Tomney. Why not nominate a "real democrat".

    May 4, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  12. Right Leaning Independent

    Watch him win and continue to vote with Republicans! That would be the biggest double cross lately in US politics....

    May 4, 2009 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  13. AnnMM

    From Todd Schmidt: "Well Maybe he could win look at Lieberman after the Democrats were so kind and kicked him. I believe he had to go independent. I can't believe the Democrats were that narrow minded. they should allow a diversity in though in the party."

    Todd, nothing was done to Lieberman and he is still a Democrat. He maintained all of his power and positions held within the party. Please stop watching Fox News and learn something before you post.

    May 4, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  14. Jay

    We need term limits for both houses of Congress. Senators should be limited to two consecutive terms. They could run, again, after sitting out one term. We need to bring an end to a seniority system that virtually renders freshman senate members impotent. Way too many of an ill-informed electorate vote on name recognition alone. This needs to end.

    May 4, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  15. tad

    anyone with a room temperature IQ can see what spector is doing. he is attempting to save his political skin. his concern is not for the people of PA or the USA his political future. unfortunately, it is not just spector, it's every senator and congressman in DC. the list of importance to all of them is: (1) get reelected (2) get reelected (3) get reelected (4) do something for the people back home and try not to make it look like pork – SO I CAN GET REELECTED. -– TERM LIMITS NOW!!!!!!

    May 4, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  16. Gop

    How could any one admire or respect a person that turns his back on his core principles just in order to win an election?

    Moreover, I have to ask why any Democrat would support a person that has shown he cannot be trusted.

    The only thing to add is he does fit in very well with a party of the dishonest AKA: The Democrat Party!

    Specter and the Democrats were made for each other since both will lie though their teeth in order to win an election.

    Funny how Democrats could not stand the person when he was a Republican but now that he is a Democrat they love him as one of their own. Got news for you people he is the same person only with a different letter in front of his name!!

    May 4, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. AnnMM

    David, Your comment to me made very little sense, if you had any understanding of my original post. Furthermore I entirely disagree with every position you stated. Obama has done a great deal in ONLY 3/12 months in office and the Republican party was going to guarantee that Specter did not win the Republcan primary. That doesn't mean the people of PA didn't want Specter for a senator, it just meant they most weren't even going to get a chance to vote for him thanks to the RNC.

    You're well spoken David but I disagree with your entire philosophy.

    May 4, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  18. Bill in Arizona

    The problem is the Republican party needs to evolve if it wants to survive. And we all know how good Republicans are with evolution.

    May 4, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  19. dan in Tucson

    I have never been a fan of Arlen Spector, but I completely understand his position. He wants his goals achieved and cannot do it under Republican No-ism anymore. The party has swayed too far right and does not care about Spector's agenda. So, in order to continue the battle, he must stay in political power. Thus changing sides.
    I don't see it as mutiny if your views are no longer are supported by the group.

    May 4, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  20. Patricia

    Its a Political move ...He's like Obama will do anything and say anything to try to get people to vote for him...He has nothing to offer anyone....Just like Obama ....

    May 4, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  21. Jon

    Ridge should wait and run agains that morron Bbo Casey Jr. This will be Specters last election. Why should the republicians waist one of there very best on a race against Specter. It makes more sense for Ridge to wait and take on Bob Casey Jr. Ridge would slaughter Casey.

    May 4, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  22. pete S

    "I will change parties before i will run and risk defeat."

    WE THE PEOPLE are the Government of the UNITED STATES. . Not these hacks currently in office.
    November 2, 2010 the date we begin to take our Country back. VOTE OUT the INCUMBENTS. VOTE AGAINST the INCUMBENT in any primary. FIRE THEM, the Congressmen/ women and the third of Senators that have to run.
    They are terrified of losing their jobs and their power. This thought makes them tremble more than anything.
    If you want to stop the spending binge if you want to take back self governing control then VOTE OUT the INCUMBENTS whoever is left standing will get the message that WE THE PEOPLE are the government and they were sent to Washington DC to do what we want not serve the special interest groups or any one section or political group of our country.


    May 4, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  23. Anthony

    We need term limits. This is really sad. He doesn't want to face the people who put him in office in the next election. Funny, he is supposed to be working for the people who put him in office. Obviously, he did not meet his (former) constituent's approval in his latest round of representation. He needs to find another job.

    May 4, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  24. jose

    What was that about principles and politicians? I always thought they were in politics for their conviction of the ideals of the people they serve. Specter has proven me right, he is in politics for his own benefit and power hunger cravings. who would have thought that a politician could behave this way? On another note, I would say that voting for a guy like this is liking voting for the devil or close to it, if the devil were real.

    May 4, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  25. tess

    GOOD RIDDANCE TO BAD RUBBISH – he fits in much better with dems who have proven over and over not to have any morals, scruples, or knowledge of decency! WHAT A BUNCH OF LOOSERS AND SPECTOR IS THE BIGGEST! it will be soo much fun to see him lose after pulling such a cheap trick – but what dems don't understand is the american people know sleaze and we are about done with it so watch out dems – a whole lot of you are on your way out the door!!!!!

    May 4, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
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