Toomey Pollster: Pa. Senate Race Tighter Than Polls Showed

Posted October 25, 2010 at 5:17pm

Pat Toomey’s campaign was not surprised when public polling showed Democratic Rep. Joe Sestak gaining momentum in Pennsylvania’s Senate contest last week, an internal memo examining the tossup race shows.

The Republican pollster detected the shift weeks before it was reported by various public polls late last week, prompting a slew of race ratings changes, including from CQ-Roll Call, and encouraging headlines for a Sestak campaign that hadn’t led in any poll since May.

The Allentown Morning Call gave Sestak a 3-point lead in a tracking poll released Wednesday. The day before, Democratic firm Public Policy Polling gave the Democrat a 1-point lead.

Toomey pollster Jon Lerner wrote in a Monday memo obtained by CQ-Roll Call that this was no surprise.

“In fact, our internal polling showed that a gradual tightening in the race had occurred some two weeks before the PPP and initial Morning Call polls, and a small but steady Toomey lead (2-4 points) had long existed, despite several public polls showing a larger Toomey lead,” Lerner wrote. “There was no sudden movement in the polls benefiting Sestak. Rather it was the common and expected phenomenon of strong partisan Democrats moving back to their party’s candidate.”

In the internal memo, however, Lerner notes that another shift is under way, this one benefiting his employer. Toomey leads by 4 and 5 points in two public polls released since Friday.

Rasmussen Reports gave the Republican a 48 percent to 44 percent lead over his Democratic challenger based on an Oct. 21 survey of 750 likely voters. The Morning Call tracking poll of 437 likely voters taken between Oct. 21 and 24 shows Sestak trailing Toomey 42 percent to 47 percent.

“Notably, however, just as observers mistook Sestak’s gradual consolidation of the Democratic base vote for a sudden shift in his favor, they are now also missing the shift that is taking place in Toomey’s direction,” Lerner wrote.

“Sestak has no more room to grow his numbers among strong partisan Democrats, and he is failing to capture voters in the center of the electorate,” he continued. “While we do not release internal polls, we have seen similar movement in Toomey’s direction, including among key demographic groups such as seniors, conservative Democrats, and ticket-splitters. There is no question that this is a close race, but there is also no question that Toomey is ahead, and is well positioned to win in eight days.”

Democrats maintain Sestak has enough momentum to prevail Nov. 2. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has devoted more than $7 million in independent expenditures to the effort, while organized labor is fighting to help the Democrat as well.