Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell holds a double-digit lead over his only GOP challenger, former Pittsburgh Steelers star Lynn Swann, and Republicans are split over whether Swann has the experience to be governor, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The poll was conducted Feb 8-13, a stretch during which Swann was constantly in the news: His last two GOP opponents dropped out, the Steelers won the Super Bowl, and the Republican State Committee endorsed him for the nomination.

The Quinnipiac University poll showed Rendell leading Swann 48 percent to 36 percent. The poll numbers are consistent with recent polling by the Connecticut-based university: Rendell led in February 2005 by 50 percent to 34 percent, and in December by 48 percent to 35 percent.

Independent voters preferred Rendell over Swann, 49 percent to 31 percent. Rendell was more popular among Democrats, 74 percent of whom supported him, than Swann was among Republicans, who had 64 percent support. Rendell also scored higher with Republicans, at 22 percent, than Swann did with Democrats, at 15 percent.

Republicans were divided over whether Swann had the "right kind" of experience to be governor — 32 percent said he did not, versus 31 percent who said he did. However, only 10 percent of Republicans said they would vote against Swann because he has never held public office.

The poll surveyed 1,045 registered Pennsylvania voters by telephone and had a sampling margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Democrats outnumber Republicans in Pennsylvania, 48 percent to 41 percent, but the parties have taken turns holding the governorship for more than a half-century. Since the state constitution was amended in the late 1960s to allow governors to serve two consecutive terms, it has changed parties every eight years. In that time, no governor has ever been denied a second term.