Specter, a moderate, was one of only three Republican senators to vote for President Obama's stimulus package, and Pennsylvania Republicans appear none-too-happy with his decision. While Specter's overall statewide favorable rating is 45 percent (vs. 31 percent unfavorable), his favorable rating among Republicans is just 29 percent, with 47 percent viewing him unfavorably.
Unfortunately for Specter, Pennsylvania's primary is closed, which means he cannot depend on support from some Democrats or moderates to get him through his primary fight. Toomey only lost to Specter in the 2004 GOP primary by two points, but his support seems to be coming largely out of frustration with the incumbent: 73 percent of Republicans say they don't know enough about him to form an opinion.
"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," Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said.
With the primary not until 2010, Specter, who is 79, has time to close the gap. He could also run as an independent, as Sen. Joe Lieberman did in Connecticut after losing the Democratic primary in the 2008 election cycle, or even as a Democrat, though that is unlikely.
In what some see as a bid to improve his chances, Specter yesterday announced his opposition to the so-called card check bill that has the potential to revitalize the U.S. labor movement, a decision that may have dealt a fatal blow to the legislation.
Even if Specter gets past Toomey, he could face trouble in the general election: His support now stands at 31 percent versus 33 percent for a generic Democrat, though he does maintain a 52 percent approval rating overall.
As The Fix notes, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee says the Pennsylvania battle "will be a top race for us this year," as the organization argues that "Senator Specter is vulnerable in both a primary and a general election."