Specter up big on Toomey, only three on Ridge

Sen. Arlen Specter's (Pa.) switch to the Democratic Party last week puts him in a very good position to win reelection next year against Republican challenger Pat Toomey, according to a new poll released Monday.

If former Gov. Tom Ridge jumps in the race, though, Specter's chances don't look as good.

Specter, who acknowledged his reelection prospects as as Republican were "bleak" and contributed to his decision to cross the aisle, has a significant 53 percent to 33 percent lead over former Rep. Pat Toomey (R), who has already launched his campaign, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday.

More, Democrats appear very willing to back Specter. In a matchup with Toomey, Democrats support Specter by a 84 percent to 4 percent margin. Republicans flock to Toomey in that match up, 74 percent to 18 percent.

The poll doesn't bear all good news for Specter, though. Specter would face a difficult race against Ridge. Ridge remains popular in the Keystone State and is reportedly considering a run now that Specter has switched parties.

In Monday's poll, Specter led Ridge by just three points - 46 percent to 43 percent.

"Gov. Tom Ridge is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give Sen. Arlen Specter a run for his money," Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement. "But even if he gets a strong challenge from a Republican, Specter is still better off for having changed parties because he seemed headed to certain defeat had he stayed a Republican and faced Toomey in a primary."

In the hypothetical match up against Ridge, Republicans back Ridge by 82 percent to 10 percent margin while Democrats support Specter 78 percent to 14 percent.

Earlier polling indicated that Specter would have a very difficult time beating Toomey in the Republican primary next year. Specter, who remains well-liked by Democrats in the state, would be able to count on any independents of Democrats in that primary because Pennsylvania holds closed primaries. Specter has acknowledged that his own polling found similar results.

A majority, 56 percent, approve of the job Specter is doing, including 81 percent of Democrats. Fifty-two percent of respondents also view the senator favorably.

The poll did not test how Specter would match up in the Democratic primary against Joe Torsella, who continues to move forward with his campaign, or Rep. Joe Sestak, who is considering a run.

Quinnipiac also did not survey how Specter would preform against Rep. Jim Gerlach, another Republican who is looking at the race.

There was a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent in the poll.

jeremy.jacobs@thehill.com