Nationally, this is supposed to be the year of the outsider, when voters flee establishment candidates for upstart challengers and ideological firebrands. But a new Franklin & Marshall College poll suggests that many Pennsylvania voters still haven’t gotten the memo.
For starters, while national polls show Hillary Clinton and Vermont’s democratic socialist Senator, Bernie Sanders, running a tight race, among registered Democrats in Pennsylvania, Ms. Clinton still maintains a commanding lead. She’s up 48 to 27 over Mr. Sanders in a state where she beat Barack Obama eight years ago. The results are relatively consistent with the last F&M poll, conducted a month ago.
Support for the two Democrats breaks down along familiar lines of age and political ideology, but the effect may be more muted than you expect. Nationally, the perception is that Mr. Sanders is the pick of younger, more liberal voters. But his support from self-described “extremely liberal” Democrats is statistically tied with that of Ms. Clinton, in the mid-40s. He does enjoy a slight (50-45) advantage among Democrats under age 35, but among the over-55 set, Ms. Clinton leads by margins of more than 2-to-1, with a 51-23 lead. Ms. Clinton enjoys a similarly wide lead among female voters.
The situation is more fluid -- by which I mean no one knows what the hell is going to happen -- on the GOP side. Yes, Donald Trump is still in the lead among registered Republicans, as he has been both nationally and on the state level. His 22 percent support among registered Republicans is unchanged since last fall. But the poll shows a marked increase for Ohio Gov. John Kasich since January: After a strong performance in the New Hampshire primary, Mr. Kasich has vaulted from 3 to 15 percent support among Republicans. That puts him in a statistical dead heat with Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s 16 percent support.
Messers Rubio and Kasich are both in contention to be the GOP establishment’s pick to take on Mr. Trump, and you can see why there are reports of frustration with Mr. Kasich’s continued presence in the race. Together, Mr. Rubio and Mr. Kasich’s support tops 31 percent -- enough to topple Mr. Trump if their support was consolidated behind a single candidate.
But that assumes voters see the candidates as interchangeable ... you know, the way pundits often do. It is true that Mr. Kasich and Mr. Rubio poll most strongly against Republicans who identify themselves as moderate or “slightly liberal.” But strange as it may sound to Democrats, Mr. Trump also does well among those groups. In fact, he outpolls Mr. Kasich among ”extremely liberal” Republicans (which apparently is not an oxymoron). As is the case in national polls, Mr. Trump’s support is difficult to pigeonhole: He draws respectable totals from voters across a broad range of ideological and demographic categories. While he trails Texas Senator Ted Cruz among very conservative and “born again” voters, the margins aren’t large, and don’t offset his strength elsewhere, especially among “slightly conservative” voters.
Mr. Cruz, by the way, is currently sitting in fourth place, with support from 12 percent of registered GOP voters. Jeb Bush, who has since withdrawn from the race, and Ben Carson are down in the single digits.
In other poll results, Democrats looking at their candidates for US Senate still prefer Joe Sestak over challengers Katie McGinty and John Fetterman: 21 percent of Dems say they support Mr. Sestak, their pick to challenge incumbent Pat Toomey six years ago, over Ms. McGinty’s 12 percent and Mr. Fetterman’s 8. But “don’t know” still tops the field, with more than 56 percent of Dems saying they haven’t made a pick yet. Mr. Sestak has slightly increased his lead: Mr. Fetterman, who got in the race late, has made some gains, but Ms. McGinty’s support has remain statistically unchanged since August.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of Pennsylvania voters say the state is on the wrong track, and nearly half say the state’s biggest problems are government and politicians. Given the budget debacle in Harrisburg, it’s not hard to imagine how they might feel that way.