PA Senate Race – a dead heat?

Step back, naysayers.  It appears we have a race.  According to poll data released today, Sestak LEADS the race, 46-45. 

You can put Pennsylvania Senate back in the toss up category. Joe Sestak leads Pat Toomey 46-45 in our newest poll of the race, erasing the 9 point deficit he had in an August PPP survey.

Toomey's support has remained stagnant over the last 2 months while Sestak's has gone up 10 points from 36% to 46%. There are three main factors driving the increased competitiveness of the race:

-Democratic voters are getting more engaged as election day moves closer. Barack Obama won Pennsylvania by 10 points in 2008 but our August survey in the state found those planning to vote in November had actually supported John McCain by a point in 2008, suggesting a massive drop off in Democratic turnout. Now those saying they will vote next month supported Obama by 4 points in 2008. The enthusiasm gap is still there but it's not as severe a problem for Democrats as it was 2 months ago.

-Sestak has wiped out what was an enormous deficit with independents. In August Toomey led 50-27 with them. He hasn't really lost any support with them but Sestak has picked up most of the undecided ones and now trails only 49-48 with that voter group. Most Democratic candidates across the country are down double digits with independents so for Sestak to be running even with them is a good sign for him.

-The Democratic base is unifying more around Sestak. In August there was a considerable party unity gap in this race with Toomey winning 74% of Republicans while Sestak was getting only 64% of Democrats. Toomey is still benefiting from greater unity with his party's voters, getting 82% of Republicans, but Sestak is up to 77% of Democrats. While it persists that unity gap is half the size of what it was in August.

Interesting.  Pennsylvania could really be a battleground this year and this data can only help Dan Onorato. 

I'm mulling over the conclusions in my personal experiences.  My enthusiasm gap feels a little less rigid, but I'll admit that the “bash 'em over the head for turning traitor” approach is leaving a sour taste in my mouth.  I'm tired of people with privileges I don't have lecturing me about getting on board. 

The LGBT community is certainly rallying around Sestak from what I've seen in local social media.  It will be interesting to see how this plays our over the next few weeks. 

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