Poll: Could Be Gop Romp

Posted: November 03, 1994

The much-predicted national Republican tidal wave appears poised to wash Democratic Sen. Harris Wofford away on Tuesday, according to the final Daily News/KYW News 3 Keystone Poll.

The poll, conducted Saturday through Monday, shows Republican Rick Santorum ahead by 10 percentage points, 42 to 32, with 23 percent undecided. The Patriot Party's Diane Blough had 3 percent, while the Libertarian Party's Don Ernsberger got 1 percent.

The last Keystone Poll, taken Oct. 1-3, showed Wofford and Santorum tied at 38 percent with 18 percent undecided.

The poll is not without a ray of hope for the incumbent, according to G. Terry Madonna of Millersville University, director of the poll.

The 5-point increase in undecideds over the past month is positive for Wofford because he still has a chance to convince them to vote for him, Madonna said.

The ad Wofford is running that hits Santorum for proposing raising the Social Security eligibility age from 65 to 70 could help turn those undecideds toward Wofford, Madonna said.

"Wofford's finally got a message that can be helpful to him," he said. ''The question is: Is it too little, too late? But it's a very powerful commercial."

The increase in undecided voters is undoubtedly due to the negative commercials run by both candidates, Madonna said.

"The negative commercials are kind of creating confusion in people's minds," he said.

Wofford's support slipped 6 points since the last poll because Santorum's portrayal of him as a tax-and-spend liberal has worked, Madonna said.

"At the same time, his image of a young, aggressive, prospective senator who's more in touch with the values of the voters has been a message that has been somewhat more appealing," he said.

Four things have to happen for Wofford to repeat the upset he pulled to win his seat over Dick Thornburgh in 1991, Madonna said.

"One is that he must convince people that Santorum is an unacceptable alternative. That means he's got to demonize him and the Social Security ad is the way to demonize him."

Second, Madonna said, turnout among Democrats and black voters must go up. Third, Wofford has to do better in the southwestern part of the state. Finally, he must convince females to come to his side.

Wofford's strategy of tearing down his opponent through negative ads without clearly defining himself was a bad one, Madonna said.

"I think it's been a mistake on Wofford's part," he said. "The problem is when you run with an incumbent you've got to give people a reason to vote for the incumbent. I don't think enough people understood what Wofford did for them."

Santorum is strongest in northeast, southwest and central Pennsylvania and in suburban Philadelphia. Wofford is ahead in Allegheny County and Philadelphia. Santorum also does slightly better among women voters, while Wofford cleans his clock with African-American voters.

Two differences show up there. In the last poll, Wofford had more support among women and was slightly ahead in the Republican suburbs.

"What's happening there is that Republicans are coming back home," Madonna said.

Santorum's strength among women is because "Wofford hasn't given them a reason to vote for him," he said.

Santorum "appears on television as a nice-looking young guy who's going to go and fight hard," he said. "He doesn't come across as a typical politician. I think they look at him and they like him and they trust him."

Santorum's supporters like him for his issue positions and party affiliation - and because he isn't Wofford. Wofford's supporters like his issues and ideas, his party and his experience.

Among those who recognize the candidates, Santorum's favorables and unfavorables are the same, while Wofford's unfavorables are higher than his favorables. The number of likely voters who view Wofford unfavorably has risen

from 34 percent to 42 percent since early October.

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