Obama and Casey keep leads in latest Pa. poll

State could swing back to Dems, lose battleground status

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President Barack Obama maintained a strong advantage in Pennsylvania in the latest Franklin & Marshall College survey, while Bob Casey held an even larger lead in a Senate race in which many voters haven't formed a strong impression of either candidate.

Less than two years after Pennsylvania voters joined in 2010's national Republican tide, the results provide further ammunition for arguments that the state is shifting from its traditional battleground status to one more favorable for Democrats. Mr. Obama led his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, by 48 percent to 36 percent.

Facing his first re-election bid, Mr. Casey had a huge lead over his GOP challenger, Tom Smith, by 42 percent to 21 percent. Mr. Casey's 2-to-1 margin was offset, however, by the fact that many voters have yet to form an opinion on the candidates. In the trial heat, more than a third of the respondents, 37 percent, said they were undecided or favored some other candidate.

Thirty-eight percent of the voters said they had a favorable impression of Mr. Casey, and only 18 percent had an unfavorable view. But in the sixth year of his term, one that followed a decade as a statewide officeholder, more than 4 in 10 voters were undecided on the incumbent (14 percent) or said they didn't know enough about him to form an opinion (29 percent).

Mr. Smith, who captured the GOP nomination over the opposition of Gov. Tom Corbett and the much of state's Republican hierarchy, was even more of a blank slate. Eight percent held a favorable view of him; 6 percent an unfavorable one; but an overwhelming 85 percent could not express an opinion on him -- 8 percent were undecided and 77 percent said they hadn't heard enough about him.

Two other recent polls found significant though somewhat smaller leads for Mr. Casey. A Rasmussen survey last month put the Democrat's lead at just 7 points while a Quinnipiac University survey last month found a 16-point edge.

Mr. Obama's lead in the state was also somewhat larger than his margin in other recent polls, but it was accompanied by somewhat lackluster favorability numbers. Forty-seven percent said they had either a strong or somewhat favorable view of the president, who carried the state easily in 2008, while 44 percent said they held an unfavorable view of him.

Mr. Romney had a sharply negative ratio of favorable-to-unfavorable responses -- 27 percent positive, 55 percent negative -- but 1 voter in 4 had yet to form an opinion on the former Massachusetts governor, weeks after he effectively secured the GOP nomination.

Mr. Obama led Mr. Romney on each of a series of questions on specific issues or qualities. The president was seen as the better leader on foreign policy and military issues and as the candidate who had a better understanding of the problems of ordinary Americans. Even on the economy, the issue that his former businessman rival has made the centerpiece of his campaign, the incumbent had a slight edge. In the face of persistent unemployment, a narrow margin of Pennsylvania voters -- 44 percent -- saw Mr. Obama as more prepared to fix the nation's economic problems; 38 percent preferred Mr. Romney on the economy.

According to the website RealClearPolitics, Mr. Obama's average margin in recent Pennsylvania surveys is 8.5 percent. A Rasmussen poll late last month found him leading Mr. Romney by 47 percent to 41 percent. A Public Policy Polling survey at roughly the same time put the Democrat's lead at 50 percent to 42 percent.


Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562. First Published June 7, 2012 12:00 AM


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