WASHINGTON – A new poll suggests Katie McGinty is surging to the finish line, for the first time catching up with fellow Democrat Joe Sestak as they vie for their party's U.S. Senate nomination in Tuesday's primary.
The Monmouth University poll released Wednesday found Sestak and McGinty dead even in the final days of campaigning. It is the first survey to show them close in a head-to-head match up. Sestak has led throughout the race, but McGinty's allies, including Democrats' national Senate campaign arm, have spent more than $4 million in the past month to rally her campaign. An independent group backing Sestak has spent about $754,000 on his behalf.
The poll found that McGinty and Sestak each had 39 percent support among likely Democratic voters. Braddock Mayor John Fetterman had just 4 percent backing, while 18 percent remained undecided.
"There is a lot of room right now for this race to go either way," said Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray. Roughly half of those surveyed still had no opinion of either Sestak or McGinty.
The winner will challenge Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) in a critical race that could help determine control of the Senate.
McGinty, Gov. Wolf's former chief-of-staff, has received massive backing from Democratic leaders, including President Obama, Vice President Biden, Wolf and major labor unions. She has featured Obama's endorsement in a string of ads while the Democratic women's group EMILY'S List has spent more than $1.5 million attacking Sestak.
They see her as Democrats' best option in the general election.
Sestak, the party's 2010 Senate nominee and a former admiral and congressman from Delaware County, has laid unusually low in the race's final weeks. For once a front-runner, he has largely held private meetings as McGinty has bombarded the airwaves. Sestak is relying on his long ties to the Democratic grassroots to withstand the big McGinty push.
He also had more campaign money to spend for the stretch run, as of April 6, the date of the latest disclosures: $1.7 million to $954,000. But McGinty's outside support should more than make up that gap.
Fetterman has drawn outsized media attention, but has struggled to turn that into campaign money or concrete support.
The poll of 302 Pennsylvania voters likely to vote in the Democratic primary was conducted by telephone from April 17 to 19. The margin of error is plus or minus 5.6 percent.