Dem and GOP Senate candidates both losing leads in key states

Jon Ward Contributor
Font Size:

A series of polls in recent days have shown key Senate races tightening, with the leads of both Republican and Democrat candidates shrinking rather than either party gaining momentum.

In Pennsylvania, Democrat congressman Joe Sestak appears to be pulling even with Republican Pat Toomey. A Muhlenberg College poll out Wednesday morning showed the Democrat ahead of Toomey by three points, 44 to 41 percent.*

A Public Policy Polling survey on Tuesday showed Sestak, who came from behind in the primary to beat incumbent Sen. Arlen Specter, ahead of Toomey by one point. A poll a few days earlier by Morning Call Tracking showed Sestak up by three.

The polling on Pennsylvania has been erratic, however. Rasmussen Reports showed Toomey up 10 points a week ago, and the Republican has been ahead in every poll going back to May, until the last two polls.

Republican Rand Paul in Kentucky has also been losing ground to Democrat Jack Conway. With the exception of two recent Rasmussen Report surveys, Paul’s lead, which once averaged seven or eight points, has been between two and five points in the most recent polls.

In Wisconsin, it is less clear whether Democrat Sen. Russ Feingold has also been able to chip away at the roughly 10-point lead that Republican Ron Johnson has held for several weeks. Feingold was only two points back in a poll released Tuesday by St. Norbert College and Wisconsin Public Radio, but that is the first time Feingold has been closer than six points behind since August.

The Real Clear Politics poll tracker shows Johnson continues to have a six-point average lead.

Democrats argue that the numbers in Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Wisconsin are evidence that the message push from President Obama in recent days and weeks, combined with the work by labor unions to rouse their members through mailing and phone calls, are having an effect.

Democrats also hope they can take a few races by localizing the races as much as possible.

But the national mood is clearly not in Democrats’ favor. There are nearly 100 House races in play, most of them held by Democrats. And a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll out Wednesday showed Republicans with a 50 percent to 43 percent edge among likely voters over Democrats.

And two key Senate races for Democrats on the West Coast have also swung back toward the toss-up category. California Sen. Barbara Boxer held a two-point lead over Republican Carly Fiorina in a Survey USA poll released Wednesday, and a four point lead in a Fox News/Pulse survey on Tuesday.

And a Wilson Research Strategies poll out within the last few days showed Fiorina with a three-point advantage.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray held only a two-point lead in a PPP survey on Tuesday, after her average lead had swung out to six points just a few days ago in the RCP poll tracker. Murray’s average lead is now down to two points.

President Obama is headed to Washington and California on Thursday and Friday to raise money and rally support for Boxer and Murray, the latest of several visits by the president to the West Coast for the two vulnerable incumbent Democrats.

Two other races, in West Virginia and Nevada, remain lumberjack logs, with candidates swapping places in first every few polls.

A Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman said that he expects West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin to pull away in that race from Republican John Raese.

*The story originally said Sestak was behind Toomey in the Muhlenberg poll.

E-mail Jon Ward and follow him on Twitter