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March 25, 2009

Poll: Specter gets crushed by Toomey

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) would get crushed in a Republican primary against Club for Growth President Pat Toomey, trailing his conservative challenger by double digits, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released today.

The poll shows Specter trailing Toomey by 14 points, 41 to 27 percent, with 28 percent of Republicans undecided.

Specter is much more popular among Democrats and independents than he is with his own party. A near-majority (47 percent) of Republican voters view him unfavorably, with only 29 percent viewing him favorably. But he receives favorable ratings from 60 percent of Democrats, and a 41 percent plurality of independents.

Ironically, his overall approval rating is a healthy 52 percent – the same as Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and higher than Gov. Ed Rendell (D-Pa.).

It’s unusual for a politician to be hated within his own party, while viewed favorably by the other side – the last senator to fit the bill was Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who lost the Democratic primary before running as an independent.

Specter has ruled out the possibility of running as an independent. Unlike Lieberman, he would not be able to run on an independent line if he lost the Republican primary.

Toomey is an unknown quantity to most Pennsylvania voters even though he nearly defeated Specter in the 2004 Republican Senate primary. Only 22 percent knew enough about him to form an opinion.

"Pennsylvania Republicans are so unhappy with Sen. Specter's vote for President Barack Obama's Stimulus Package and so-called pork barrel spending that they are voting for a former Congressman they hardly know," said Qunnipiac pollster Clay Richards.

The poll comes out as Specter has been trying to get back in the good graces with his own party. He came out against the union-backed Employee Free Choice Act yesterday, preventing it from getting the 60 votes necessary for passage – even though he was the only Republican to support the legislation in 2007.

He was one of only three Congressional Republicans to vote for President Obama’s stimulus package, another factor driving the Republican opposition. Support for the stimulus splits sharply along party lines: 70 percent of Republican voters oppose the stimulus, while 87 percent of Democrats support it.

ALSO: Slightly more encouraging news for Specter in today's Franklin and Marshall College poll, which shows the senator leading Toomey among Republicans, 33 to 18 percent, with 42 percent of voters undecided.