Specter facing "near fatal" polling numbers

The Pennsylvania senator's re-election campaign is in real trouble

By Alex Koppelman

Published October 14, 2009 9:45PM (EDT)

When Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter switched parties earlier this year, leaving the Republican Party behind in order to become a Democrat, it was generally believed that, in doing so, he'd secured his re-election in 2010. By switching parties, Specter thought he was removing the threat from former Rep. Pat Toomey, a conservative who'd almost certainly beat the incumbent in a Republican primary. Things aren't quite so simple.

A new poll from Susquehanna Polling and Research casts real doubt on Specter's ability to hold on to his seat next year. Only 31 percent of respondents said they believe he should be re-elected, and 59 percent want someone else to take the job. Jim Lee, president of the pollster, calls the former number "near fatal."

For now, the good news for Specter is that the same poll shows him handily defeating his challenger in the Democratic primary, Rep. Joe Sestak. Specter attracted the support of 44 percent of respondents, compared to 16 percent who would vote for Sestak. Obviously, though, that leaves a lot of votes out there.

Specter's also in a statistical tie in a general election battle against Toomey. There's a possibility the senator will do better if he wins the nomination, as Democrats could then be expected to unite behind him, even if they do so reluctantly. But Toomey may also have room to improve as the campaign progresses and he increases his name recognition.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2010 Elections Arlen Specter D-pa. Pat Toomey