President Barack Obama carried Pennsylvania, and Democrats enjoy a huge registration edge, but right now there's a Republican atop the state's nationally watched U.S. Senate race.
Former Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey, a Republican from Zionsville, would beat Democratic U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, 47-40 percent, a Morning Call/Muhlenberg College Poll shows.
Of course, both men face primary opposition on May 18. Admiral-turned-congressman Joe Sestak stands in Specter's way, and Peg Luksik will be on the ballot with Toomey.
Democrats expect an uphill climb this election, a time of economic upheaval, raw emotions over health care and a roiled electorate.
That is reinforced by the poll. Half the state's voters disapprove of Obama's job performance, compared with 45 percent who approve.
Forty-one percent of voters say they're more inclined to support a GOP candidate for Congress, compared with 40 percent who'd back a Democrat.
Toomey would defeat Sestak 33-22 percent in another hypothetical matchup posed by the poll. But sizable chunks of the state's electorate know little or nothing about either man.
Just 9 percent of poll respondents said they couldn't choose between Specter or Toomey. Four percent said they had no preference or would pick someone else. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percent. . . .
In a statement, Toomey's spokeswoman, Nachama Soloveichik, said the poll numbers show that, with his votes for health-care reform and the stimulus, ''Specter is a big part of the mess in Washington and there's no way he can be part of the solution.''
Specter's campaign manager, Christopher Nicholas, declined to comment.
The telephone poll of 402 likely voters, conducted between March 29 and Wednesday, found few who did not have an opinion about Specter, a 30-year incumbent who made national headlines a year ago this month when he jumped from the Republican to the Democratic side of the aisle. Specter's defection temporarily gave Democrats a 61-vote, filibuster-proof majority.