Politics & Policy

Standing Pat: Toomey’s Durable Lead

Can Pat Toomey be stopped? No doubt Democrat Joe Sestak would like to know. Toomey has led Sestak in the polls for months by varying degrees. Rasmussen’s latest has Toomey continuing to hold a steady eight-point lead with just under 50 days until voters hit the polls.

This, despite Sestak’s winning a series of high profile endorsements over the past month from Bill Clinton to Michael Bloomberg to Chuck Hagel. Vice President Joe Biden stumped for Sestak earlier this week, on the same day Clinton stopped in for an encore.

And President Obama will be in Philadelphia for Sestak next week.

Yet Toomey’s lead holds.

Sestak is hitting a wall, with Pennsylvanians overwhelmingly sour on the president, the economy, and the future of the nation. Toomey, in contrast, has keyed in to these concerns with a straightforward message: “More jobs, less government.”

Sestak already may have lost whatever chance he had in November. Toomey is nearly cracking a coveted 50 percent lead, with that Rasmussen poll putting Toomey at 49 percent to Sestak’s 41 percent. Only 8 percent of likely voters remain undecided.

In other words, Sestak would need to pull 100 percent of undecided voters just to reach a statistical dead-heat if the vote were today. That’s a mighty tall order.

All things being equal, Sestak has built-in structural favorability deficits to overcome if he wants to be competitive come November 2. Toomey is seen favorably by nearly 60 percent of Pennsylvania. Sestak, on the other hand, is seen favorably by only 47 percent of voters. Worse, a whopping 42 percent (to Toomey’s fairly low 33 percent) see Sestak poorly.

Nachama Soloveichik, communications director for the Toomey campaign, spoke with Battle ‘10 about the race. “The problem Congressman Sestak has is that he has voted for every single piece of President Obama and Nancy Pelosi’s job-destroying agenda,” she said, “from Wall Street bailouts, to skyrocking deficits, to hundreds of billions of dollars in new taxes, to government-run healthcare, all of which has resulted in a 9.6 percent unemployment rate.”

“Pennsylvanians want common sense job-creation solutions,” said Soloveichik, “and that’s what Pat Toomey is offering them.”

The data would seem to bear out at least some of Soloveichik’s contentions. Nearly two-thirds of Pennsylvanians — some 56 percent — favor repealing the president’s health care legislation. Forty-one percent say it would help the economy. And tellingly, only 28 percent of voters say repeal of Obamacare would hurt the economy.

Democrats like Bill Clinton and Sestak have presented health reform as a sort of economic cure-all on the campaign trail since its passage, making this figure particularly devastating as Sestak struggles to win converts.

At this point, those with long memories may well recall the 2006 battle between Rick Santorum and Bob Casey. This race is similar, but flipped in terms of party enthusiasm. Santorum fought against the same sort of structural polling deficit Sestak faces today.

Barring a major October surprise — one that would somehow spin Sestak’s support for major spending programs — this race may be far closer to already being decided than many realize.

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