Obama, Democrats Should Mind the Tom Smith Surge in PA
posted at 8:25 am on October 19, 2012 by Matt Vespa
Despite making an Akin-esque gaffe earlier this summer, Tom Smith, the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, is surging in the polls against incumbent Democrat Bob Casey, Jr. During the summer, Business Insider posted the transcript of the exchange between Smith and members of the press on August 27th:
Robert Vickers, Patriot News: In light of Congressman Akin’s comments, is there any situation that you think a woman should have access to an abortion?
Tom Smith: My stance is on record and it’s very simplistic: I’m pro-life, period. And what that Congressman said, I do not agree with at all. He should have never said anything like that.
Vickers: So in cases of incest or rape…
Laura Olson, Post-Gazette: No exceptions?
Smith: No exceptions.
Mark Scolforo, Associated Press: How would you tell a daughter or a granddaughter who, God forbid, would be the victim of a rape, to keep the child against her own will? Do you have a way to explain that?
Smith: I lived something similar to that with my own family. She chose life, and I commend her for that. She knew my views. But, fortunately for me, I didn’t have to.. she chose they way I thought. No don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t rape.
Scolforo: Similar how?
Smith: Uh, having a baby out of wedlock.
Scolforo: That’s similar to rape?
Smith: No, no, no, but… put yourself in a father’s situation, yes. It is similar. But, back to the original, I’m pro-life, period.
At the time, Smith was trailing Casey by almost 20 points in the polls and had abysmal name recognition in the Keystone State. Furthermore, only 31% of Pennsylvanians knew who Smith was compared to Casey, whom 80% of the electorate could identify, mainly because his father was a popular governor who served from 1987-1995. Given Smith’s deficit in the polls, and the fact that Obama was leading by a comfortable margin at the time – it wasn’t irrational to write off Pennsylvania. Bob Casey, Jr., while acting like most senators from Pennsylvania, mostly vanished into obscurity after he curb stomped Rick Santorum in 2006, and banked on his family’s name to keep him afloat in 2012.
However, Pennsylvania is being hit extra hard. While taking on the economic burden of Obama’s failed policies, the Keystone State is also being slammed by Obama’s war on coal. It’s an issue that brought out most of the state’s legislature when FreedomWorks held an unannounced press conference on the subject in the Harrisburg Capitol. Is Smith another Republican saved by the graces of failed leftist policies? It appears so, however, unlike Akin, Smith has faired better since he hasn’t made hit too many snags.
His campaign clarified the ‘out of wedlock‘ comments and has used his considerable wealth to carpet bomb the state with ads that are proving to be damaging to Casey’s chances at re-election in November. He’s spent $17 million dollars of his own money in his efforts to defeat Bob Casey. As a result, Smith has outraised his opponent, claims to have $7 million cash on hand, and can verify that most of his additional $1.64 million dollars in campaign donations were under $200.
Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post wrote on October 18 that:
A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday showed Casey with a slight, 48 percent to 45 percent lead over self-funding Republican Tom Smith. Other surveys have showed Casey with a more comfortable advantage, but it’s clear the race is competitive.
Tom Smith’s relentless TV ad barrage has lifted him out of the coal mine to give Sen. Robert Casey a run for his money,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of polling at Quinnipiac. “Casey had a 55 – 37 percent lead in Quinnipiac University’s August 1 survey. Now this race is too close to call.”
Casey’s campaign insists it hasn’t been taking Smith lightly, and says the media is just now taking a closer look at the contest.
“We have been trying to raise alarm bells for a while now,” said Casey campaign manager Larry Smar. “Until the last poll came out in September, no one was paying attention to the race.”
While Democratic operatives in Pennsylvania still think Casey will win, there’s no doubt that the senator will have to work for another six-year term. However, could Smith ride on Romney’s coattails? As Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner wrote on October 18, “Susquehanna Polling and Research provided [The Examiner] with a poll it conducted for state party officials that shows Romney with a 49 percent to 45 percent lead over President Obama. It’s the first poll to show Romney leading among likely voters in the Keystone State.”
In all, Tom Smith could very well send Sen. Bob Casey packing in November, and deny Barack Obama a significant amount of electoral votes from the Northeast. The president’s road to 270 has become much more difficult.