Joe Sestak has basically just started in the last few weeks to introduce himself to Pennsylvania voters on television. He horded his campaign funds for this purpose and now he’s flooding the airwaves. And it appears to be paying off, according to this new tracking poll of the Senate primary between Sestak and Sen. Arlen Specter.

The first poll, released Saturday night, shows Rep. Joe Sestak gaining on Sen. Arlen Specter. Specter had enjoyed double digit leads over Sestak, but Sestak has narrowed that lead to just 6 percentage points (48 percent to 42 percent).

This poll is the first since both candidates went up on television with commercials a few weeks ago.

Sestak’s launch has gone well, with him holding a 45% favorability and just 11% opposed, with a large number still undecided. He has a couple more weeks to rope those people in.

An internal poll from a separate campaign (one of the gubernatorial candidates?) also shows the race tightening, with the margin of victory coming from support for Specter among the African-American community.

Specter led 47 percent to 38 percent in the survey of 600 likely primary voters interviewed by telephone on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. A little over a month ago, a poll for the same campaign found Specter with a 23-point advantage, leading Sestak, 52 percent to 29 percent.

Interestingly, almost all of Specter’s advantage in the more recent poll comes from African Americans. The poll found the race essentially tied among white Democrats, (44 to 42 percent, Specter) but Specter had a 4 to 1 lead among blacks – 67 percent to 16 percent.

That makes good African American turnout, particularly in Philadelphia, a key part of any Specter victory scenario.

Specter is using a radio ad on black stations featuring President Obama, obviously aware of the locus of his support. But if Sestak wants to win, it seems to me that he’s an Anita Hill ad away from making this his race.

What’s not factored in here is the turnout factor. Specter has the support of the state Democratic party and many labor organizations, and if they go all-out to bring voters to the polls, Sestak faces a bigger climb than is seen in these numbers.

David Dayen

David Dayen