Posted at 11:13 AM ET, 04/01/2012

Rick Santorum: Pennsylvania polls showing close race are work of ‘Democratic hack’

Former senator Rick Santorum on Sunday dismissed recent polls showing his support collapsing in his home state of Pennsylvania, taking aim at the nonpartisan pollster behind the surveys as “a Democratic hack.”


Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum. (Darren Hauck - Reuters)
In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Santorum was asked about a late-March Franklin & Marshall poll that shows him taking 30 percent to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney’s 28 percent in the Keystone State’s Republican presidential primary. A mid-February Franklin & Marshall survey showed Santorum at 45 percent and Romney at 16 percent.

The pollster who conducts the Franklin & Marshall survey, G. Terry Madonna, is a respected nonpartisan political science professor who is also the director of the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College.

“First off, the Democratic hack that does that, Terry Madonna, has probably singularly gotten more polls wrong than any person I know in the history of the state,” Santorum said Sunday. “There are two other polls that are out this week that have us up 20 and I think the other is 17. This is a pollster who just — I think he just draws numbers out of a hat sometimes. We feel very good about Pennsylvania. We’re going to do exceptionally well there.”

In a phone interview Sunday afternoon, Madonna — who also polls for eight Pennsylvania media clients spanning the ideological spectrum — defended his two decades of experience as a nonpartisan pollster, arguing that Santorum is “entitled to his own opinions; he’s not entitled to his own facts.”

“Number one, I’ve never polled for any party or any candidate in the 21 years that I’ve been polling, first at Millersville University and now at Franklin & Marshall College,” Madonna said. “Number two, as I said in a tweet, I had Santorum winning in ’94 and 2000. He won. . . . I had him losing in ’06 to [Sen. Robert P.] Casey, which he did. In 2010, I did a bunch of congressional races in our state; I did now-Senator [Patrick J.] Toomey and Gov. [Tom] Corbett, had Republicans winning in all those races. They won in all of them, in every poll that I did in 2010.”

“So this ‘Democratic hack’ — me — shows all these Republicans winning?” Madonna said. “I don’t understand that.”

He added that by claiming the poll numbers were drawn “out of a hat,” Santorum “insults the professionals who work in the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College, where the poll is done using scientific methods that you would expect to be done by academic pollsters.”

The last poll that showed Santorum with a double-digit lead in Pennsylvania was conducted by Quinnipiac University in early March; the survey showed Santorum taking 36 percent to Romney’s 22 percent in the state.

Santorum has staked much of his candidacy on the argument that he’s the GOP hopeful best poised to win in states such as Wisconsin, which votes Tuesday, and Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 24. A loss in either or both contests, then, could deliver a major blow to his campaign.

Santorum on Sunday cast himself as “the first conservative to really be out on the scene in Republican politics” in Pennsylvania and argued that the state GOP has always been a “moderate-to-liberal party for many, many years.”

“I was the guy that sort of broke through the ceiling,” he said. “There are folks in the Republican Party that want that party to go back to being the moderate Republican Party that it once was, and you know, they’ve lined up behind Governor Romney.”

The state’s conservatives, by contrast, “have and will line up behind me, and I think we’ll see a very good victory in Pennsylvania as a result,” he added.

By  |  11:13 AM ET, 04/01/2012

 
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