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 independenceā€¦" 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. Old white lady in Birmingham, AL

    Ridge is also a pro-choice moderate, the Republicans will harass him until he leaves the party too.

    May 4, 2009 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  2. TommyF

    Political tolerance from Democrats?

    "If the Democrats can tolerate Joe Lieberman, they can certainly tolerate Arlen Specter"??????

    The entire Democratic party campaigned against Lieberman. Let's not forget the classy attacks from Then again Moveon consists of the same dirtbags that ran a full-page ad against a returning/successful general from the battlefield in Iraq. You stay classy MoveOn!!

    May 4, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  3. Alex

    Sestak is a much better choice and man, vote for him in the democratic primary.

    May 4, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. 52 yr. old white Houston oil man

    I think he should have become an independent like Lieberman. It's time for a third party, a centralist party. Maybe call it the White Line party (the one down the middle of the raod). After all about 75 % of Americans belong to that group.

    May 4, 2009 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  5. Moderate Democrat

    In all honestly, I don't know whether to like this guy or not. He's certainly not the "Sixtieth" I would have hoped for.

    May 4, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. Moderate Democrat

    TommyF May 4th, 2009 11:36 am ET

    "If the Democrats can tolerate Joe Lieberman, they can certainly tolerate Arlen Specter"??????

    The entire Democratic party campaigned against Lieberman.
    Please, Mr. F....what did Lieberman 'campaign' FOR that he was even able to be campaigned AGAINST? Last I recall, HE campaigned against Democrats, and wasn't running for anything himself, not on a single ticket. So enlighten me oh "So full of crap" one.

    As usual, Republicans, making up stuff as they go and using it as propoganda.

    May 4, 2009 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  7. Jones

    The moderate Republicans are the TRUE Republicans. The party has been infested with fascists that have poisoned the values of conservatism and it is that ultra-violent, tyrannical, personality-cult, evangelical, sect that should go the way of the dinosaurs.

    May 4, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  8. Tulsa

    lol.... there sure are a lot of people, mostly from the right, but a few from the left, who think "PART" is the same thing as "VALUES".
    Specter has always been his own man and never has been a straight line Republican. He started as a Democrat, then switched when Reagan pushed the "Big Tent" idea. Now even St. Ron would have trouble recognizing what his beloved party has become.
    Specter's values have not changed and hopefully never will. The party drove him and other moderates out. The true "big tent" is now the Democratic party, so he is welcome.

    I hope the Republican party can regain some of it's past "values" and get past this rigid ideology that excludes anyone who disagrees with Limbaugh and Hannity.

    Yea, good luck with htat.

    May 4, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. OGLiberal

    "The entire Democratic party campaigned against Lieberman. Let's not forget the classy attacks from"

    Didn't several Senators – including Obama – actively campaign for Lieberman during the primary? Lieberman lost that primary – was the Democratic Party then supposed to get behind the independent run of the guy who was rejected by Connecticut's Democratic primary voters. Many Dems and liberal organizations may have backed Lamont over Lieberman in the primary but that's what happens in primaries – see Toomey v. Specter, 2004 and 2010 (since canceled). And once you lose the primary, all bets are off – if you choose to run as a member of the other party or as an independent, you are fair game. Lieberman thought he would win the primary and he was wrong. He then guessed correctly that he could win the general as a independent. But that was a one time shot – he'll never win a Senate election in CT again.

    BTW, the reason Lieberman became an "independent Democrat" and not a Republican is because the GOP would have never accepted a pro-choice, moderate like Lieberman. The Democratic Party is a much bigger tent, kind of like America. The GOP? Not so much.

    May 4, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Babs

    Oh, so what he is really saying, I want the cushy senate seat anyway I can get it. First and foremost... ANY senator or representative who is presntly in office should ALL be voted out as they are the main reason we are in the mess we are in... THEY were not watching for WE THE PEOPLE but lining their pockets. Spector needs to go... PA vote against him... whether another Democrat or Republican... These should not be lifetime jobs!

    May 4, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  11. Jeff

    I am sick of these polls and surveys for elections over a year away. Who cares? It's like prejudging an executive and saying they will or will not get a promotion over a year away before evaluating their work during that time. No more irrelevant polls please.

    May 4, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  12. gt

    term limits ....please ....30 plus years... no party should have some one in there that long.... new blood on both sides

    May 4, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  13. I Am The Great And Powerful Rush Of Oz

    Now that the stock market is above the level on the last day of Bush's administration, can we all say: Good for You, President Obama?

    May 4, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  14. Proud DHS radical

    Two-term limits and no congressional golden parachute retirement plan. That's what we really need folks, let get rid of these 30 plus years professional politicians who forgets who puts them in office right after the election. Two-term limits will also dramatically reduce the corruption that runs through that den of thieves.

    May 4, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. Patricia

    Babs.........These should not be lifetime jobs!...How do we the people change it ?.......

    May 4, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  16. Bob Of Lompoc

    That's how far the Repubicans have fallen – Tom Ridge did a fine job as HSA Boss, but can't even win a poll against a person who recently dumped his older political "wife" for a younger "woman". As a life long Democrat, I fear the 1960s all over again – Democrats in total power, with a weak, almost useless, Republican Party offering no opposition. Think Gulf Of Tonkin Resolution, and subsequent Vietnam calamity: 56,000 Americans, and 3,000,000 Vietnamese, dead. And, for what: The defeat of Communists, the ones that surrendered without much of a struggle, twenty years later, because they ran out of money? God Almighty, "when will they ever learn".

    May 4, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  17. Richard L

    The Republican Party just proves over and over that it is a party of radicals with no understanding of the concept of independently looking at both sides of issues.

    May 4, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. Doug, New Jersey

    "michael May 4th, 2009 11:17 am ET

    Doug, New Jersey

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

    Michael, check out a community college for some math lessons. Libadelphia and its metro area is where the population is. The people there lack even basic morals and values, put Americans lives at risk each and every day, and have intolerance, as all liberals do, for every single person they encouter. They would vote Bin Laden if he had a D next to his name.

    May 4, 2009 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  19. Kenyan Wonder Kid

    The Dems are now collecting all the old loony bins retreads like Spectacle, who like Joe Biden can't help but say outrageous things. How can this not be bad for them and good for Reps??

    May 4, 2009 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  20. Chamorrita, MD

    This is too funny. I guess the Republicans are crying the blues.

    Rule of Law. NEVER piss off one of your own, it may come back to haunt you. Republicans attacked Specter mercifully as a Republican, and now he may seriously beat Toomey!!

    May 4, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  21. Sparky

    Ridge can't win the Republican primary anymore than Specter could. It will be the neocon Toomey which ensures that the Democrat will win whomever he/she may be.

    May 4, 2009 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  22. nick

    I wonder if Sen. Ensign has received a copy of the recent poll results.
    These members of ,"the party of NO" canĀ“t seem to understand the "change and hope" that America is undergoing... Shame on them.

    May 4, 2009 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  23. No More Incumbents

    This guy is a poster child for term limits.

    May 4, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. southerncousin

    He certainly sounds greedy and stupid enough to be a Democrat. Let the whiny old SOB go with the socialists add him to the proud list that contains the list of that old murderer Kennedy, Dodd, Frank, William Jefferson, Rangel (what ever happened to that investigation by Nancy Pelosi) and all of the other cheats, criminals and despots in the once proud Democratic party.

    May 4, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  25. Kenyan Wonder Kid

    So poor old Spectacle became a Dem because the Reps didn't love him anymore! Who ever said that you had a job for life, especially when you are making very poor decisions. You have to EARN your seat to keep it, and if the Reps have some better candidates, then what's wrong with that and some freah blood? Let Spectacle take his old deflated ball over to the Dems and they can deal with his poor performance. This does NOT make the Reps weaker, but the same cannot be said of the Dems...

    May 4, 2009 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
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