Poll: Schwartz top Dem in Pa. gubernatorial

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D. Pa.) has yet to announce she’s running. (Matt Rourke / AP)

U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz’s campaign wants to prove to Democrats that she is the dominant primary candidate for governor with the best chance to beat Gov. Corbett – and that her identification with abortion rights is not the general-election vulnerability some in the party fear.

So the campaign this week released parts of two internal polls taken over the summer, one of likely Democratic primary voters, and the other of likely general-election voters.

Schwartz led Corbett 49 percent to 41 percent, with 10 percent undecided, according to the polls.

She had a double digit lead over three primary opponents, with 34 percent of the vote, versus 15 percent for former environmental official Katie McGinty; 11 percent for York County businessman Tom Wolf, a member of former Gov. Ed Rendell’s cabinet; and 10 percent for state Treasurer Rob McCord.

Interestingly, the general-election poll found that Corbett’s job approval rating was 46 percent, to 51 percent who disapprove. That’s a major improvement, compared to independent molls in recent months that pegged the governor’s approval number in the mid 30s.

The polling, by Benenson Strategy Group, also tackled Schwartz’s record on abortion. Before her career in politics, she operated a women’s health clinic in Philadelphia that provided abortions, and has been a leading proponent of abortion rights in the state Senate and Congress.

Bottom line: 51 percent of registered voters said they preferred a characterization of Schwartz’s position on abortion, to 33 percent who agreed with the opposing position attributed to Corbett.

“The question does come up,” pollster Pete Brodnitz told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “It is something we’ve looked at internally to make sure we’re not fooling ourselves.”

Pollsters said “supporters of Tom Corbett say” that Schwartz ran an abortion clinic, opposed parental notification law and backed a former of late term abortion (known as the “partial birth” procedure by opponents).

The questioning characterized Schwartz “helped found the non-profit Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center to provide access to high-quality affordable health care. While the center did provide legal abortion services, Schwartz’s goal was to reduce the number of abortions by helping women get access to better health care and contraception to avoid unwanted pregnancies.”

The latter provides a roadmap for the Schwartz campaign’s messaging on the issue.

The primary poll, conducted by the New York-based Benenson Strategy Group, surveyed 800 likely Democratic primary voters by phone July 16-18. The margin of error was 3.46 percent.

The general election poll of 600 likely voters was conducted by phone August 6-8, and had a margin of error of 4 percent.