Friday, May 28, 2010

PA Senate: Race for the Independents

The Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll lays out a brief narrative of the battle ahead for Republican Pat Toomey and Democrat Joe Sestak: it's all about the independents. Right now, Sestak is still basking in the glow of his primary win over the incumbent Specter, and he's jumped (a little) ahead of Toomey in the polls. The Kos poll shows the race as 43-40 in Sestak's favor.

That leaves about 17% of the voters undecided. Moreover, Sestak and Toomey split the independent vote: 35-35. Both candidates have a lot of room to grow with independents.

The Pennsylvania election still seems very fluid. Either candidate could win by a clear margin. If Toomey is successful at running as a reform candidate who capitalizes on voter dissatisfaction, he could end up with a Senate seat.

Sestak's victory freed Pennsylvania Democrats from the burden of incumbency, but Toomey may gain by stressing Sestak's allegiance to an incumbent party. Portraying Sestak as a paint-by-numbers Democrat could help pull independents to Toomey's side. Perhaps ironically for some Republicans, the emphasis on rumors of a White House "offer" to Sestak (to get him to abandon his run against Specter) may help burnish his credentials with independents.

As the PA party primary showed, races can turn suddenly. This race could be waiting for a catalyzing moment, propelling one of these men over the top.

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