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. No More Incumbents


    It's called voting.

    May 4, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  2. Michael M. Noonan

    Who cares? Specter is an unprincipled hack.

    May 4, 2009 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  3. Sorry Pilan

    How could the RepubliCONS actaully vote for RIDGE again!?! He is as big of an idiot as Sarah and Dubba!

    May 4, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  4. TommyF

    To Moderate Democrat:

    Lieberman campaigned for reelection in 2006 as an independent. And as I recall he won after a massive smear campaign from the far-left (ie. MoveOn) along with most high profile dems campaigning against him.

    What facts do I seem to be inventing here?

    May 4, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  5. Alex

    Now now children, you forget the facts. It is only okay to switch parties if you are going from Democratic to Republican. Anything else is wrong.

    May 4, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  6. Nick

    The last time I check, Hillary clinton was Presumptive democratic nominee according to CNN.....

    May 4, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    The old folks, like me, have some experience to add to the overall picture. I'm not big on a guy who switches parties. Both have good and bad and I think we just pick one and go with it.... I do think think having two polictal parties is a good thing, in general. I hope that it continues.
    Different views are not horrible.

    May 4, 2009 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  8. Dave

    Wow, such anger on both sides.
    And yet, it's the minority who are the angry ones. Pity.
    Still, this is why George Washington warned not to form political parties: It forces people to choose a side. And it makes people choose a candidate based on their party instead of everything else.

    May 4, 2009 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  9. worriedmom

    Specter is in for Specter, nothing else. He admitted it. Let the Democrats have him, he fits in well! He can be Biden's twin!

    May 4, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  10. Dave

    Specter is the posterboy for power that corrupts. These people get in office and some will do whatever it takes to hold on even at 79 years of age. Pitiful. Cut them loose.

    May 4, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    I don't judge by political parties. We need two – at least. Basically, who are kind to each other and works together gets my vote. In some countries, that seems a big deal. Odd. Maybe I just don't understand the yu,k stuff and violence of Planet Earth. Probably not.

    May 4, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  12. Jim

    @ David,

    There was also massive spending by the Republicans when Bush was in and they had majorities in both Houses. Plus, with all the checks and balances worked into the system and the fact that bipartisanship really doesn't happen anymore, nothing gets done without one party in control. If the majority and minor never agree on anything and have to have everything done their way with no compromise we get nowhere fast and nothing changes.

    But don't get me wrong. I don't like having a one party government. It's the only thing worse than a two party government.

    May 4, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  13. Patricia

    No More Incumbents.....It needs to be a law ..God ...The voting system doesn't work because as we all have seen they can control that too....

    May 4, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  14. OGLiberal

    "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??"

    Democratic Senators – 60
    Republican Senators – 40

    It's really that simple. A loss is a loss.

    May 4, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |

    Ridge will never Beat Specter in Pa why there is a R Infront of his Name!

    May 4, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  16. Retired Army in San Antonio

    David -- May 4th, 2009 10:41 am ET

    .........You can't have Democrats OR Republicans control both the House & Senate. When that happens you see one party rule (like we have now) and that ruins this great nation.....…


    I guess we only need to look at Bush's first 6 years in office to see that........right 😉 ?

    May 4, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  17. Jared in Cali

    I don't REALLY see where the story is. I mean, Spector changed parties only because he knew he wouldn't fare well in the GOP primaries. This just goes to show that there aren't too many differences between the Dems and the GOP. The only real difference is the Dems (congressionally speaking) seem to be plagued with inaction, as always.

    May 4, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  18. Moderate Democrat

    TommyF May 4th, 2009 12:14 pm ET
    Fair enough. I didn't expect us to just keep going back in history until we finally found something to use as a weapon. I just figured you might be talking about a 'current affair' rather then 'ancient history'. Just thought maybe you might be referring to some 'RECENT" election/campaign. Silly me.

    But, republicans base policies on stuff from way back in the dark ages, I should have seen it coming.

    May 4, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  19. Miss R

    Why can't the people who put him in office have a re-call and take him out of office.

    May 4, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Minnesotan

    I love watching the Grumpy Old Pinheads in the Republican party froth, whine and moan. They truly are the party of NO: No ideas, no progress, no honesty, no change, and no help for Americans unless you're rich and white.

    May 4, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  21. Paul , St. Louis MO

    Can Ridge beat Toomey in the Primary?

    May 4, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  22. Kim- GA

    A slow roasting is happening in the republican party. Just a matter of time before this party is cooked.... and it's well deserved!

    May 4, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Arlen Spector is a turncoat that has now proven, again, that these politicians are in this solely for themselves – NOT US!

    May 4, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  24. Jackie in Dallas

    Specter has always done what he thinks is right for his constituents (witness the fact he has been re-elected so often): something more members of both houses, and on both sides of the aisle, should consider. He is a moderate, and was hounded out by his own party.

    Perhaps those of you whose views are more radical should consider the fact that the greatest majority of people in this country view ourselves as MODERATES. We rarely vote party lines - we vote by issues, and not SINGLE issues. I would say most of us support civil rights for all citizens of this country, stronger regulation of businesses, a revamp of the tax laws, and fiscal responsibility.

    May 4, 2009 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  25. Dale

    People -"Both left & right" We need to wake up and realize that this is both parties plans. They want us fighting with each other. As long as they got us fighting, they can play their cards. So, if the left is in charge they play their political trumph cards and the same happens with the right. This lets our country go way left and way right depending on who is in charge at the time.

    Now, we should all hopefully understand that this country cannot keep spending imaginary money that us taxpayers are expected to to back. It's no different than over running a credit card or taking out to big of mortgage like they say was the real problem. YET they are doing it......

    Imagine if the people from both the left and right were on the same page. We actually do have a lot in common on the middle ground that the government and politicians don't share with us. We all want a fair tax, fair trade, health care concerns, education and most of all we all agree that we need our jobs back. They don't want us working together on these issues because they are affraid they would lose control. So they do everything in their power to keep us fighting with each other.

    All government people up for re-election in 2010 should be voted out of office (ALL) this would give our leaders a notice that we have had it with all the bickering and finger pointing. We need to demand this of them.

    It's actually to bad we don't have a really strong independent party yet. Although every media and blog would do everything in their power to exploit them, why? who's paying who?

    May 4, 2009 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
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