GOP Glimpses Chance in Pennsylvania Senate Race

Monday, 29 Oct 2012 03:57 PM

By Andra Varin

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As polls show challenger Tom Smith closing the gap against Pennsylvania’s incumbent Sen. Bob Casey, Republicans are thinking that they have a chance of winning over that seat after all.

Casey, a moderate Democrat and son of a former Pennsylvania governor, once enjoyed a double-digit lead. But a recent Quinnipiac University poll showed Casey with 48 percent support to Smith’s 45 percent. And a new Philadelphia Inquirer survey found Casey with 49 percent support to 42 percent for Smith. The same poll gave Casey a 10-point lead in early October.

Tom Smith (AP Photo)
A tea party favorite and political newcomer, Smith, 65, made a fortune in coal mining and has poured more than $16 million into the contest. The National Republican Senatorial Committee just announced that it will spend half a million dollars to help him with ad buys.

Casey, meanwhile, is getting some help from the Majority PAC, which has been running television ads criticizing Smith for wanting to abolish the U.S. Education Department.

Casey, a 52-year-old lawyer, served as state auditor and then treasurer before defeating incumbent Rick Santorum in the 2006 election. He has strong union support, an important factor in Pennsylvania.

Casey has also been endorsed by the state’s biggest newspapers. The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Patriot-News of Harrisburg have all given him the nod.

But Smith's surge has proved that money talks. He has better than a 3:2 advantage in fundraising, redeiving $19.6 million compared to his oppontent's $12.1 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

During an interview with Newsmax, Smith said that America misunderstands the Keystone State, assuming it is Democrat because that is the way it has voted in the past five presidential elections.“In 2010, we elected a new conservative U.S. Senator, Pat Toomey," he pointed out.
Bob Casey (AP Photo)

"The voters of Pennsylvania sent five new Republican House members to the U.S. House of Representatives. The governor is now Republican —  Tom Corbett. The state House is now Republican."

And he believes he can join Toomey in the Senate, saying the state has turned pink and is almost red now after voting for Barack Obama by more than 10 percentage points over John McCain.

During the only debate between the two men on Friday of last week Smith said he would close the federal Department of Energy and "look at" shuttering the Department of Education. But Casey insisted the Republican's agenda really included an end to "Medicare as we know it."

Ads for the two candidates have largely been negative, with Smith calling Casey "Senator Zero." and the Democrat attempting to make Smith seem like an out-or-touch millionaire.

But Smith seems to have tiptoed around the firestorm that entrapped senate candidates Todd Akin in Missouri and Richard Mourdock in Indiana when he talked about the emotive issue of rape and abortion. During an event with the Pennsylvania Press Club he likened out-of-wedlock pregnancies to those caused by rape.

Attempts to tie him to Akin's comment that women rarely get pregnant in cases of "legitimate rape" because their body shuts down, largely failed.

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