In Senate race, Joe Sestak pulls even in polls

Dem. candidate’s recent boost is similar to his last-minute run in the primary

· October 20, 2010, 4:11 am   ·  Updated October 20, 2010, 12:00 am

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Democratic Senate nominee Joe Sestak speaks at Houston Hall in January. In May, Sestak won a tight primary race against long-time Sen. Arlen Specter.


After a long streak of polls showing Democratic senatorial candidate Joe Sestak down by three to 12 percentage points, recent surveys suggest he shouldn’t be counted out quite yet.

An independent Morning Call poll was released Tuesday night showing Sestak — a current congressman from Pennsylvania’s seventh district — with a three-point lead over Republican candidate and former Congressman Pat Toomey, 44 percent to 41 percent, with 15 percent of voters still undecided. The poll is the first nonpartisan indicator that Sestak might be pulling even in the race.

No public poll has shown him leading since May 24, according to RealClearPolitics.com, a website which tracks polling data.

Pointing to Sestak’s primary campaign, in which he squeaked by long-time U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, political communications professor David Eisenhower said Sestak appears to be working under the “peak theory” of political campaigns. Rather than “run all out all the way” to Election Day, Sestak tends to time his “appeals and ad campaigns to make a maximum impact towards the end,” Eisenhower said. “He came on very strong at the end by design.”

“I have not discounted Sestak at all this fall,” Eisenhower continued. “He had enough reserved in that primary to make that a very effective campaign and it turned around, heck, starting Thursday or Friday before primary day the following Tuesday.”

Last week, the Sestak campaign released internal polls which gave Sestak a slight edge — a move which Eisenhower said could be “a message telling contributors to keep contributing.”

For College junior and Penn Democrats President Emma Ellman-Golan, the polls signify an “important change.”

Though Penn Dems will be increasing its efforts in the coming weeks, Ellman-Golan said it will not be in reaction to the shift in the polls. “The fact that we’re ramping up isn’t a reaction but a strategy which causes the race to tighten,” she said. She added that the group hopes to recruit 100 volunteers for Election Day and is planning of a Nov. 1 rally at Bodek Lounge that will include Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, both Penn alumni.

College Republicans President and Engineering junior Peter Terpeluk said “there isn’t much to do” about the direction of the polls. Though “we want polls to favor the Republicans ... a tightened race is normal,” he said.

He added that College Republicans will continue its regular canvassing and phone banking efforts in the two weeks leading up to the election.

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