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Poll Shows Party Switch Boosts Specter

Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), a newly-minted Democrat, is in a virtual tie with former Gov. Tom Ridge (R) in a hypothetical test of the Keystone State’s 2010 Senate contest. In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, Specter led Ridge 46 percent to 43 percent among voters surveyed. The 29-year Senate incumbent declared last week that he would switch parties to run for re-election as a Democrat in 2010 because polling showed he could not beat former Rep. Pat Toomey (Pa.) to win the GOP nomination. The Quinnipiac poll showed Specter’s re-election chances greatly improved running against Toomey as a Democrat — Specter led the former Congressman 53 percent to 33 percent with 10 percent undecided.“Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money,— said Clay Richards, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “But even if he gets a strong challenge from a Republican, Specter is still better off for having changed parties because he seemed headed to certain defeat had he stayed a Republican and faced Toomey in a primary.— Ridge has yet to make any public comments about running for Senate in 2010, however a senior Republican aide confirmed Friday that he is considering running. The poll showed that the former Homeland Security secretary is still popular in his home state: 55 percent of survey respondents said they had a favorable impression of Ridge, while 19 percent said they had an unfavorable impression. Toomey is still relatively unknown with the general electorate, scoring a favorable impression with 20 percent of respondents but 67 percent said they have never heard of the former Congressman. Specter’s decision to switch parties boosted his poll numbers. Almost half of the survey’s participants, 49 percent, said the newly minted Democrat deserved to be re-elected — his highest score so far this year. In a similar survey from late March, only 38 percent of respondents said Specter deserved to be re-elected. The Quinnipiac poll surveyed 1,120 Pennsylvania voters from April 29 to May 3 and had a margin of error of 3 points.

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