Sen. Arlen Specter boosted his 2010 re-election prospects by switching to the Democratic Party, but may be vulnerable if the GOP can persuade former Gov. Tom Ridge to run, according to a poll released Monday.
The survey by Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University showed Specter, as a Democrat, with a large lead-- 53 percent to 33 percent-- over former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey, a Republican. That's a 180-degree flip from a week ago where Toomey led Specter by 21 points when they were on the Republican ballot.
But the poll also found Specter, 79, and Ridge, the former governor and former national homeland security secretary, virtually tied.
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Ridge, who now runs a Washington-based consulting firm, has not commented publicly on whether he is interested in running for Senate or responded to questions about this new poll.
Specter admitted when he announced his switch a week ago, that his chance of defeating Toomey in next spring's primary was bleak. He said he didn'tt want his moderate record decided by a Republican electorate that has tilted more conservative in recent years.
The poll did not attempt to gauge Toomey's prospects of winning the party's nomination in a GOP field that is still taking shape. Toomey lost the 2004 primary to Specter by only 17,000 votes out of one million cast. Still, when the poll asked Republican respondents their opinion of Toomey, 57 percent said they didn't know enough about him.
Ridge "is probably the only political figure in Pennsylvania who could give (Specter) a run for his money," said Clay Richards, assistant director of the university's polling institute.
Specter faces opposition in the Democratic primary, although he has been warmly embraced by the party's national leaders. President Barack Obama has offered to campaign and raise funds for him.
Philadelphia-area civic leader Joe Torsella has declared his candidacy for the Democratic nomination and U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., has said he may run.