Philadelphia Metropolis


Can Bob Casey Lose?

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Let's see, the script I have calls for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey to be cruising to victory over coal magnate Tom Smith with less than two weeks to go before Nov. 6th.

So, my question is:  Who threw out that script?

The latest Quinnipiac Poll confirms it: Casey and his Republican rival are locked in a tight race, with Casey's lead within the margin of error.  Let's call it a tie.

How could this be?  The Casey name is magic in Pennsylvania.  Casey pere was governor; Casey fils has served as state treasurer and auditor general and beat Rick Santorum six years ago in a laugher.

Smith came out of nowhere  -- well, not exactly nowhere.  He's from Armstrong County, which is darn close to nowhere.  He's a bona fide member of the Tea Party.  The only previous elected position he held was supervisor in Plumcreek Township.

But, Smith, who just turned 65, has one thing no other potential Republican rival had in challenging Casey.  He has money -- and lots of it.  Smith, who made that money mining coal, has spent $17 million so far in the campaign and is showing no signs of stopping until Nov. 6.

With his saturation TV ads, he has managed to label Casey as Senator Zero, accused him of cutting Medicare and sneered that he is a member of the "political class."  That last charge is true.  Casey, 52, has spent most of his adult life in political office.

As to the Senator Zero part, Casey has kept a low profile in the Senate, and he kept a similarly low profile in this campaign, until it was obvious that Smith was gaining.

I don't know if it was a strategy to ignore Smith, thinking he would lack credibility among voters.  If it was, it was a mistake. They let Smith define Casey as do-nothing, big spender, and the Democratic incumbent is paying the price now.

The Casey ad running in the east attacks Smith as being a Tea Party candidate. But that didn't impress ex-Gov. Ed Rendell, who criticized Casey's recumbent campaign in an interview in Scranton.

"Casey? He hasn't run a campaign. He's run one ad, a stupid Tea Party ad," Rendell told the Scranton Times. "The Tea Party ad isn't bad, but that's all they've run. They've run a non-campaign up until now, and Smith has put a lot of money into the campaign."

In turn, that led Saul Shorr, Casey's campaign manager, to lambaste Rendell for not knowing what he was talking about.  The campaign had been running ads in western Pennsylvania since August, Shorr said.

"Instructive criticism is one thing, but ignorance is something else," Shorr added.

Which brings me to one of my rules of politics:  Don't get involved in a public spat with a man who is a hero to voters in the area you need to win. You don't want Ed Rendell outside the tent pissing in.  You want him in the tent... well, you get the point.

As of September 30th, Casey's campaign reported a balance of $5 million in its account, enough to finance a late flight of media ads in the expensive Philadelphia media market that attack Smith and praise Casey.

Casey's campaign has said it has polls that show their candidate up by 13 points.  Which brings me to another of my rules of politics -- never, ever pay any attention to polls done by candidates.

Will Casey survive this challenge?  As they always say in editorials:  Only time will tell.

My bet is he will survive.  He will win.  But Tom Smith will have taken the gloss of a guy considered unbeatable just a few months ago.

Here is a good update on the race by Tracie Mauriello in the Pitttsburgh Post-Gazette.

-- Tom Ferrick





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