WASHINGTON – Democrats Joe Sestak and Katie McGinty fare about equally in potential match ups against Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, though the Republican incumbent holds a double-digit advantage over them both, according to a Quinnipiac University poll out Tuesday.
The survey, the first since McGinty announced her candidacy in early August, shows Toomey leading Sestak 48-33 in a potential match up and ahead of McGinty 48-32.
The poll, more than a year before Election Day, provides an early snapshot of a race expected to be critical to deciding control of the Senate.
Sestak, a former admiral and Delaware County congressman, has been laying the groundwork for years for a potential re-match with Toomey and formally launched his campaign in March. McGinty, Gov. Wolf's former chief of staff, entered the race with a string of endorsements from the Democratic establishment – including former Gov. Rendell – but has yet to fully ramp up her public campaign schedule.
What's unclear, though, is how Sestak and McGinty compare in a Democratic primary, where the electorate will be far different than the general election. Sestak also begins with a significant advantage in campaign funds.
Their equal footing against Toomey even extends to their standing among women, despite McGinty winning a high-profile endorsement from the Democratic women's group EMILY's List. Toomey wins the women's vote 40- 37 against Sestak and 40-38 against McGinty. He has a commanding lead among men in both match ups.
Toomey has held double-digit leads throughout the year, according to independent polls, and he has been helped by $1.9 million in spending by outside Republican groups, Politico reported, as Democrats try to decide who they will nominate.
Few voters know much about the two Democrats: 61 percent don't know enough about Sestak to form an opinion and 74 percent say the same about McGinty.
Some Democrats complain that Quinnipiac's methods undercount the number of Democrats who historically turn out in presidential election years. They argue that a strong Democratic electorate – brought out by the 2016 presidential race – will boost their nominee. And the polls will almost certainly change once the race heats up.
Toomey, though, begins with a head start.
The poll surveyed 1,085 Pennsylvania voters and had a margin of error of 3 percentage points.