State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Mary Wilson covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

U.S. Senate race looking alive

Written by Mary Wilson, Capitol Bureau Chief | Oct 16, 2012 7:44 PM
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The U.S. Senate race many left for dead in Pennsylvania may just come roaring back to life. Two recent polls show the Democratic incumbent Bob Casey’s lead over Republican challenger Tom Smith has shrunk since August.

No sooner had the ink dried on surveys out this week than the Casey campaign announced a new attack ad against Smith.

The ad recycles a clip used in a TV spot released in September. A voice narrates, “Tea Party founder, Tom Smith,” before cutting to a clip of Smith addressing an unidentified audience, saying, “I have started my own Tea Party group.”

Pollster Chris Borick said the senator is going to have to do more of these kinds of ads. He directed the recent Morning Call/Muhlenberg College poll showing Smith trailing Casey by just two points.

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“The Casey camp has to come hard in these last three weeks, leverage all their resources, and be much more forceful in trying to define Tom Smith to voters than they have up to this date,” he said. “They’ve attempted, and you’ve seen some of their ads, but they’re going to have to do more.”

But Casey may be outspent. He’s reporting $5 million on hand, to Smith’s $7 million. Smith is showing more funds raised, and the former coal company owner recently loaned his campaign $10 million of his own money.

At a rally for Mitt Romney in Elizabethtown, Lancaster County on Monday, Smith noted his rise in the polls.

“Now, my campaign to defeat Senator Bob Casey’s been going exceedingly well,” Smith told a crowd of hundreds. “We have it now within the margin of error.”

Another poll released this week, by Quinnipiac University, shows Casey ahead by three points, when just a few months ago the incumbent was leading his challenger by double digits.

Borick said the race has tightened since August because voters surveyed are giving Casey lower favorability ratings and show greater dissatisfaction with his job performance.

“That can directly be tied to the very steady and strong attacks that Tom Smith’s campaign has put up on the airwaves of the state directed at Bob Casey,” said Borick. “It’s hurt his standing among voters and opened a door for Tom Smith to make this a much closer race than many predicted.”

Not every poll shows a dramatically tightened race. Public Policy Polling this week released its own survey showing Casey ahead by 11 points, a point higher than in a poll taken by the same group in July. PPP deemed that the race “isn’t looking terribly competitive.”

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