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Carson, Trump, Clinton lead support in Pa., poll indicates

Donald Trump, Ben Carson and “Don’t Know” lead the Republican primary field in Pennsylvania, where Democratic voters almost certainly will choose Hillary Clinton as the presidential nominee in 2016, a Franklin & Marshall College Poll shows.

The Oct. 19-25 poll of 614 registered Pennsylvania voters found 20 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats remain unsure about whom they like as the next president.

“It is telling to me that there is still a lot of fluidity and uncertainty left in this race,” said G. Terry Madonna, Franklin & Marshall’s political science professor and director of the poll. Released Thursday, the poll has an error margin of 3.9 percentage points.

Bryan Sandford, 62, a Monroe County retiree, put himself in the uncertain category. An independent voter, he is watching both parties’ nominating processes with amusement, he said.

“I am fairly evenly disgusted and entertained by both sides of the aisle,” Sandford said. “I will eventually pick someone. I always vote. I’ll just pick the person who flipped-flopped or lied the least.”

Nearly 4.1 million of Pennsylvania’s 8.2 million registered voters are Democrats; 3 million are Republicans, and 1.1 million are independents. The state has voted Democrat in the past five presidential elections.

Last week’s survey tapped 303 Democrats, 231 Republicans and 80 independents.

Clinton grabbed a big lead over her closest rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont — 52 percent to 18 percent — suggesting Democratic voters were impressed with her testimony before the House subcommittee on Benghazi and her first debate performance. Some likely responded to Vice President Joe Biden’s decision not to run.

“There isn’t any doubt that the accumulation of Biden dropping out and her presentations at both the testimony (about the deadly attack in Libya) and in the debate have contributed to her surge in the polling,” said Madonna. “Biden really was eating up her support.”

Among other Democratic candidates, former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley registered zero support, and “some other candidate” got 12 percent.

With Republicans, Trump and Carson ran neck-and-neck — 23 and 22 percent support, respectively. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida placed third at 13 percent; Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a McKees Rocks native, had 6 percent.

Alison Dagnes, political science professor at Shippensburg University, said a series of candidates will get “their moment in the sun, then that support fades as another candidate rises and gets the scrutiny voters expect.”

“Trump has had his moment in the sun; so has Carly Fiorina and now Ben Carson,” she said. “… Eventually, as always, someone will withstand the scrutiny once the voting begins in the winter.”

The survey reflects the results of national polls, Madonna said.

“Hillary has now resumed the status of the nominee. Barring anything that comes out of the blue, like serious problems with her emails, she has resumed her earlier status as the inevitable nominee,” he said.

With regard to Pennsylvania government, the poll found serious dissatisfaction with the direction of the state and its politicians. A majority of Pennsylvania voters polled believe the state is heading in the wrong direction, and nearly half believe that government and elected officials are the biggest obstacles to solving problems.

Pennsylvania has been without a budget since July, and voter sentiment is starting to affect Gov. Tom Wolf’s job performance ratings: 36 percent think he’s doing an “excellent” or “good” job, down from 39 percent in August.

Sandford said he voted for Wolf but is disappointed in how he has tackled the budget process.

“I thought he was going to be a little more willing to work with both sides, but that has not turned out to be the case,” he said.

Fifty-one percent of voters hold the state legislature more responsible than the governor for the late budget. Wolf gets the blame from 32 percent.

“Voters put the blame of bad governing right on Harrisburg and elected officials, and they view everyone there to be completely unable to be functional,” Madonna said.

Many voters view all politicians as dysfunctional, despite political parties, Madonna said.

“If this continues, the governor’s numbers are likely to drop more sharply,” he said.“Overall, this poll shows us that we are in a new territory in the level of disgust with Washington and Harrisburg.”

Salena Zito is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at [email protected].


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