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Movement for Santorum?

Wednesday afternoon Rasmussen Reports released a poll on the Pennsylvania Senate race that raised a few eyebrows. The poll showed Senator Santorum trailing State Treasurer Bob Casey by nine points (50-41), representing the first time Santorum had closed the gap with Casey to single digits in the seven polls taken by Rasmussen dating back to July 20th of last year.

That was not the most notable result from the poll, however. After asking for initial preference, Rasmussen informed respondents that the National Organization for Women (NOW) is concerned about Casey's stance on abortion and is endorsing another candidate in the Democratic primary. When voters were asked again for preference after hearing this piece of information, Casey's support dropped significantly among Democrats and Independents while Santorum's support with Republicans rose. The result was a five point lead for Santorum over Mr. Casey, 46-41.

The results of a Quinnipiac University poll taken March 28 - April 3, however, appear to contradict Rasmussen's finding. According to Quinnipiac, only nine percent of Democrats who identified themselves as pro-choice and had expressed support for Casey indicated they would change their vote solely over the issue of abortion.

Nevertheless, both polls show overall movement toward Santorum: in the Quinnipiac poll he has closed the gap from a 15-point deficit six weeks ago to only eleven points today, 48-37. Rasmussen's latest indicated a 7-point tightening from a previous poll conducted in February.

Also worth noting is that Casey's favorable/unfavorable spread also continues to erode. In December, Casey enjoyed a +34% bulge in net favorability, compared to Santorum's modest +7% net favorable rating. Today Casey's net favorability rating is down to +23% (33 favorable - 10 unfavorable), while Santorum is now running at even (32 favorable - 32 unfavorable).

On the surface those favorability numbers might appear to be bad news for Santorum. But having been in office since 1994, Santorum is a known quantity to Pennsylvania voters. One would expect the favorability gap to continue to close as the race kicks in to high gear - a factor which could work to continue to shrink Casey's overall lead.