F ORMER U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, with his big lead in the Pennsylvania presidential primary all but vanishing with three weeks to go, lashed out at the Daily News pollster on a news show Sunday morning and then, on a second show, misled viewers about the pollster's work.
"Fox News Sunday" host Chris Wallace noted that Santorum's lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania dropped from 29 percentage points in February to a mere 2 points last week in the Franklin & Marshall/Daily News poll.
"If you lose your home state, would that be it?" Wallace asked Santorum.
Santorum, who had blamed the media and the GOP "establishment" for Romney's success, predicted that he will do "exceptionally well" in the April 24 primary.
Then he lashed out at G. Terry Madonna, director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll.
"The Democratic hack who does that, Terry Madonna, has probably singularly gotten more polls wrong than any other person I know in the history of the state," Santorum said. "This is a pollster who just . . . I think he just draws numbers out of a hat sometimes."
History is not on Santorum's side here. Madonna has a strong record in tracking Santorum's statewide campaigns in Pennsylvania. We'll come back to that.
After "Fox News Sunday," Santorum ventured to NBC's "Meet the Press," on which host Savannah Guthrie also brought up the poll.
Santorum told her: "I just laughed at that because it's never right." He then claimed that Madonna's polls before the 2010 Republican primary election for governor showed then-Attorney General Tom Corbett in a "dead heat" with a challenger.
On this, Santorum either has a faulty memory or a tangential relationship with the truth.
Four Madonna polls showed Corbett holding a lead ranging from 18 percentage points to 24 points over former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, his main foe, from January to May 2010.
In 2009, Madonna's polls showed Corbett holding a lead that ranged from 9 percentage points to 22 points over U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach, who dropped out of the race in January 2010.
Maybe Santorum doesn't know the meaning of "dead heat."
Madonna, who conducts the poll for the Daily News and other media outlets in Pennsylvania, responded Monday by calling Santorum's claim on "Fox News Sunday" "simply untrue."
Madonna added: "I don't do any work for political candidates and don't contribute to candidates or parties. Since I first set up my center at Millersville University in 1986, I have scrupulously avoided any hint of partisanship."
And here's that track record:
* In 1994, Madonna said that Santorum's challenge to incumbent U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford was too close to call a month before the general election. Santorum won by 2 percentage points.
* In 2000, Madonna said that Santorum had a 21-point lead on his challenger, then-U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, a month before the election. Santorum won by 7 points.
* In 2006, Madonna said that Santorum was trailing then-state Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. by 15 points with a week to go before the general election. Santorum lost his seat by 17 points.
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