Toomey surges ahead in U.S. Senate race — or maybe not

    Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (left) and Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Katie McGinty. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo and Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey (left) and Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Katie McGinty. (Susan Walsh/AP Photo and Emma Lee/WHYY)

    A new poll shows incumbent Pennsylvania Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey with a sizable lead over Democratic challenger Katie McGinty, but two other surveys offer a different picture.

    A new Quinnipiac University poll gives Toomey the biggest lead of any independent survey so far. It shows him up 8 points, 50 to 42 percent. A month ago, the Quinnipiac poll showed the race practically even.

    A Monmouth University poll shows the two candidates tied at 46 percent, while a Franklin & Marshall poll gives McGinty a 6-point lead, 41 to 35 percent.

    It’s odd that the Franklin & Marshall and Quinnipiac polls would be so far apart. Sometimes, you can see a difference in the weighted survey samples. If one poll has a lot more Republicans or Democrats — or a different racial or gender mix — than the other, it can help to explain the results.

    A quick look at these two yielded no obvious answer, and neither poll director would talk about the other.

    Franklin & Marshall poll director Terry Madonna said this is a race that can change quickly.

    “You have to remember about one in five voters in Pennsylvania are undecided in the Senate race,” he said. “It’s really quite volatile. This race could be won by either candidate. The way it looks, this is going right down to Election Day.”

    The race is generating heavy TV advertising by both campaigns and independent groups hoping to sway control of the U.S. Senate.

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