WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Senate race in Pennsylvania that could determine whether President Barack Obama’s Democrats retain control of the chamber is deadlocked one week before the election, a Reuters/Ipsos poll showed on Tuesday.
Democrat Joe Sestak has gained ground on Republican Pat Toomey after accusing him of wanting to export U.S. jobs to China and both candidates are now level on 46 percent.
Republicans are expected to win control of the House of Representatives in next Tuesday’s election as voters give low marks to Obama’s handling of the sluggish economy.
It is unclear whether the Republicans will be able to pick up the 10 seats needed to win control of the Senate as well.
Pennsylvania, many of whose big industries have been hit in the economic downturn, is one of a handful of close races that could determine the balance of power.
While dozens of Democrats across the country may lose their seats due to the 9.6 percent unemployment, Sestak appears to have turned the issue to his favor.
He has hammered Toomey’s support of free-trade policies and even suggested in one advertisement that Toomey “ought to run for Senate in China.” Many Americans resent the rapid rise of cheaper manufacturing in China that has cut into U.S. jobs.
Sestak was ten points behind the Republican, a former derivatives trader, in the last Reuters/Ipsos poll in Pennsylvania in late August.
“Sestak’s campaign made a concerted effort to talk about how they’re the candidate who stands for American industry versus Toomey, who stands for Wall Street,” said Ipsos senior research manager Chris Jackson. “They have been able to take that particular issue and twist it to their advantage.”
In Tuesday’s poll, some 48 percent of those surveyed said free trade subjected U.S. companies to unfair competition from cheap labor abroad, while 44 percent said free trade was good because it opened up global markets.
By a margin of 37 percent to 31 percent, voters said Sestak would do a better job than Toomey of keeping jobs in the United States. More voters also said Sestak would be better at dealing with China and standing up for U.S. interests.
Toomey was seen as more likely to balance the budget by a margin of 36 percent to 28 percent. The two candidates were seen as equal on creating jobs in the state.
In the Pennsylvania governor’s race, Republican Tom Corbett held a 6-point lead over Democrat Dan Onorato, 49 percent to 43 percent. Corbett’s lead has shrunk from the 15-point advantage he held in August in the race to succeed Ed Rendell, a Democrat who is stepping down after two terms.
Pennsylvania voters identified jobs and the economy as the biggest problem facing the state, mirroring results from polls in other states.
Ipsos surveyed 600 Pennsylvania adults between Friday and Sunday, and 400 of those surveyed were identified as likely voters. The survey has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points for likely voters.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Editing by David Storey