Two separate polls released yesterday show the political hit that Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) has taken in his party's base for giving crucial support to the Democrat-drafted $787 billion economic stimulus.
A Quinnipiac University survey found that 53 percent of Republican respondents said that Specter did not deserve reelection. The Franklin & Marshall College Poll, meanwhile, reported that 51 percent of Republican voters think it's time for a change.
Specter, 79, is seeking a sixth term in next year's GOP primary, and he already faces fire from the right.
Former Rep. Pat Toomey, a conservative leader from the Lehigh Valley, leads Specter 41 percent to 27 percent, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
Though Toomey came within 17,000 votes of beating Specter in the 2004 GOP primary, the poll found that 73 percent of Republican voters did not know enough about the likely challenger to form an opinion of him.
"Pennsylvania Republicans are so unhappy with Sen. Specter's vote for President Barack Obama's stimulus package and so-called pork-barrel spending that they are voting for a former congressman they hardly know," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Franklin & Marshall, however, found Specter at 33 percent, Toomey at 18 percent, challenger Peg Luksik at 2 percent, and 42 percent undecided.
The difference? The F&M poll asked respondents whether they supported one of the three but also gave the options "some other candidate" and "aren't sure." Quinnipiac's questionnaire was limited to Specter and Toomey.
Experts say both approaches are valid, though there is heated debate about which is better.
The Quinnipiac poll asked specifically about Specter's role in the stimulus. It found Republican voters disapprove of that vote, 70 percent to 25 percent. Democrats approved of his support for the measure, 87 percent to 6 percent. Independents approved, 56 percent to 38 percent.
The Qunnipiac poll surveyed 1,065 Pennsylvania voters from March 19-23, and its results are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. Results for Republican voters, a smaller sample of 423, are plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.
Franklin & Marshall interviewed 662 voters from March 17-22, and results are subject to an error margin of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.