Friday, January 7, 2011

Casey looks pretty solid

PPP's early looks ahead to the 2012 Senate races have found a lot of the Democrats first elected in the wave year of 2006 to be extremely vulnerable for reelection- Bob Casey is not one of them. He has solid approval numbers and leads five prospective opponents tested against him by margins ranging from 7 to 23 points.

41% of voters in the state approve of the job Casey is doing to 29% who disapprove. He's on positive ground with independents but the most striking thing within his numbers is that 23% of Republicans approve of him to only 47% who disapprove. To put those figures in some context Arlen Specter's breakdown with GOP voters on our last poll before the election last fall was 9/86 and Ed Rendell's was 11/80. Republicans just don't have as big a problem with Casey as they do with most Democratic politicians.

The Republican tested in the poll who comes closest to Casey is Rick Santorum, who nevertheless trails 48-41. Doing next best is former Governor Mark Schweiker who trails 47-34, followed by Congressman Jim Gerlach who's down 49-33, Congressman Charlie Dent whose deficit is 51-31, and actual announced candidate Marc Scaringi who trails 50-27.

Two things persist throughout all five match ups: a strong advantage for Casey with independents and an inordinate amount of crossover support from Republicans. Casey has at least a 20 point advantage with independent voters against all 5 of the GOPers tested- it's 20 over Santorum, 22 over Gerlach, 24 over Schweiker, 30 over Scaringi, and 38 over Dent. Casey also gets 13-16% of the Republican vote in each scenario. To put that in perspective Joe Sestak received only 8% support from GOP voters in his contest against Pat Toomey last fall.

It should be noted that with the exception of Santorum none of the Republicans are particularly well known and as a result it seems likely that they would pull closer if any of them were actually to make the race and build their name recognition up across the state. Schweiker's brief term as Governor doesn't seem to have made much of an impression on voters, 66% of whom have no opinion about him. That goes up to 74% for Gerlach, 76% for Dent, and 85% for Scaringi. Santorum is certainly well known but he is not well liked with only 38% of voters rating him favorably to 44% with an unfavorable opinion.

Casey is not unbeatable by any means but he will be a very formidable candidate and he's on much safer ground than the Sherrod Browns and Claire McCaskills and Jim Webbs of the world who were also a part of his freshman class.

Full results here


NRH said...

No big surprise here. In a year without historically lopsided turnout, Pennsylvania is a fairly blue state. Even with lopsided turnout, it was a very near thing anyhow.

Unknown said...

You should put your poll in context, because it's early in the cycle. In 2009 you did your first PA poll in April. Toomey led Sestak by 6. April isn't January, however. In January you had Carnahan leading Blunt by 1 and Strickland leading Kasich by 6. Strickland is the more important comparison, as he and Casey are incumbents. Most incumbents start out fairly strong, regardless of how they end the cycle.

A January 2009 poll might've had Chris Dodd leading all comers.

Anonymous said...

Casey is polling right around the 50% mark. This is vulnerable (not solid) but not an emergency. An incumbent should be consistently above 50% (consistently above 55% could reasonably be called solid; look at Klobuchar in Minnesota).

On the bright side for Casey, he isn't falling below the 47% mark against any candidate. The analysis describes Santorum as the strongest candidate, but that 47% suggests to me that Schweiker is actually the strongest candidate. Casey does worst against Schweiker (Santorum does best against Casey but it's likely that Schweiker could do better among undecideds, as he is less known; Santorum would have to win all the undecideds, where Schweiker can survive losing some).

From a redistricting perspective, Gerlach would be the best candidate. If he runs, then Republicans can make the 19th the new 6th and divide up the 6th. The Democrat parts in Montgomery county to the 13th (Schwartz), and the Republican parts to his Republican neighbors. Some of the Republican parts of the 13th would go into the 15th and the 8th (which could also give up some of the Democratic parts outside of Bucks county).

That would help since both the 5th and the 19th have incumbents in the southeastern corners. The two districts combine to run the height of the state. Thus, it's hard to move the districts west as would need to happen if they eliminated either the 4th or the 12th (the usual suspects).

Things would work better if they could move the 19th east (as the new 6th, picking up parts of the old 6th) and the 5th south (picking up parts of the 9th, which would move west to pick up Cambria county. The remainder of the 12th would move north, pushing the 18th north. That would push the 3rd and 4th east into the very Republican parts of the current 5th.

Scranton could be moved from the 11th to the 17th (shoring up the incumbent Democrat). The 11th moves east and north. The 10th moves west (moving the incumbent from the western edge of the district to the center).

Altmire's portion of the 4th used to be part of the 14th and could be put back. Critz lives in Cambria, so he would be in the 9th (a very Republican district). This would knock off two Democratic incumbents (either Altmire or Doyle, and Critz) while only giving up one Republican incumbent in a swing district (Gerlach). It would also create two open districts that should go Republican (the 4th and 12th). A net gain of a Republican seat at the expense of creating five sure Democrat seats (the 17th and 13th would be considered swing districts now, although both incumbents are secure).

Of course, this poll suggests that Gerlach faces a serious uphill battle if he runs. Perhaps something similar is still possible if the 12th is the eliminated district, but the difficult in moving the 5th and the 19th make that questionable.

Ed said...

Casey votes the liberal Obama line on everything (check his record). The Republicans need a candidate with name recognition and not Santorium.Casey is no heavy weight in the Senate that is for sure. It is not a benefit for him to tote his liberal voting record in Pennsylvania.

Anonymous said...

What was Casey vs Santorum in January of 2005?

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