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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Poll dancing

Posted By on Thu, Apr 15, 2010 at 12:46 PM

It "has everyone talking" say the folks at DailyKos: A Rasmussen poll out this week showing Joe Sestak and Arlen Specter in a statistical dead heat. Maybe people are talking about it; I'm just not sure what it means. 

I've written about Rasmussen's often-controversial numbers before: The long and short of it is that they tend to weigh likely voters heavier than other polls do. So maybe it's no surprise that Sestak performs does well in their books: After all, the premise of Sestak's campaign is that he appeals to true believers sick of Specter's endless compromises. Plus which, Sestak has performed strongly in Rasmussen polling before. His 42 percent is, in fact, the same result he posted last fall. So is this a meaningful trend, or just some statistical choppiness resulted from the volatility of how voters feel about Specter?

Last summer, Sestak was in the low 30s -- and that's right where he was at the outset of this year, after his peak in October. It's hard to read a trend here, unless it's the trend of voters being pissed at Specter. For example, Rasmussen finds that:

Although Sestak voted for the national health care bill, he captures the majority of the votes of those Democrats who think the national health care bill is bad for the country ... Fifty-four percent (54%) of primary voters who view the health care bill as good for the country support Specter. Fifty-nine percent (59%) of those who say the bill is bad support Sestak.  

Of course, among the reform's critics are plenty of folks on the left who think the bill is bad because it's not progressive enough. But my gut sense is that the lion's share of that 59 percent are people who think the reform is government overreach ... and they simply don't know what Sestak's position on it is. I'm guessing a lot of those votes are members of the "anyone but Arlen" crowd. 

Still, all that aside, I'd expect some tightening of the numbers in the next few weeks. A seperate survey, by Susquehanna Research, shows Sestak well behind Specter -- 42-28 -- but improving significantly on his showing late last year. The question is whether Sestak will be able to capitalize on that trend. He's got the money -- $5 million on hand at the start of the year -- but I'm not sure if he has the momentum suggested by Rasmussen's numbers.

Oh, and speaking of Susquehanna, they also polled the gubernatorial race, and showed Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato establishing a lead over other Dems. What struck me most, though, was how Onorato appears to be dominating Auditor General Jack Wagner in their mutual homebase of Allegheny County: Two-thirds of voters here say they support Onorato, compared to just 7 percent for Wagner.

It's not that I expected Wagner to have a huge base of support here, necessarily. But Onorato -- just by nature of his job -- often has to play the heavy with voters here. And in any case, I did expect Wagner to be at least as popular in his own backyard as he is in the rural "T" of the state. Instead, he has the backing of 13 percent of those voters.

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