Could Ed Rendell Take Pat Toomey’s Senate Seat?

Former governor leads incumbent in hypothetical race.

It’s tough for us to see Ed Rendell in the Senate. The man is a chief — not somebody who would risk getting his voice drowned out by 99 others. He just seems bigger than that, somehow.

There’s only one reason to believe he would ever make the run, in fact: Because he could win.

A new poll from Public Policy Polling suggests that Rendell — who has given no indication of desiring a Senate run — is actually the leading candidate for the Senate seat now held by Pat Toomey.

“Former two-term Governor Ed Rendell leads the pack of potential Democratic challengers, besting Toomey 44-41 in a hypothetical matchup. Rendell owns a substantial 17-point advantage with Independents, and leads with both men and women (+1 and +6, respectively),” PPP reports. “Should Rendell decide to enter the race, he would start with a decided name recognition advantage over Toomey, 85-63.” (See the full poll results below.)

Now it’s true Rendell thinks — or has said, at any rate, that Toomey is vulnerable. “I would love to be a Democrat running against an incumbent Republican senator in 2016,” Rendell told the Inquirer back in November. But you’ll note he didn’t say he wanted to be the Democrat making the run.

Besides, aren’t we all waiting for him to swoop in and run for mayor again?

Anyway, Rendell’s isn’t the only Dem who would might take a shot at Toomey. PPP’s survey shows that former Congressman Joe Sestak, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, and Attorney General Kathleen Kane trail the incumbent in a hypothetical race. (Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that Sestak and Matthews beat Toomey in the poll. The post has been corrected.)

Any actual race would probably be much tighter than the new poll suggests. Toomey’s problem — even after nearly a full term as senator, is … anonymity. Of the Democrats named, only Sestak trails Toomey in name recognition.

“Pat Toomey hasn’t made a very strong impression on voters one way or another in his first four years in the Senate,” said said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling, “and that leaves him pretty vulnerable if the Democrats are able to land a strong candidate.”

Maybe. but Toomey will be running in a presidential year. Voters will presumably have roused themselves from their slumber by then to figure out who is serving them in Washington and whether he deserves a return stay. Anonymity won’t be a problem once the campaign ads start flying.