Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

The Ole Head in the Sand

Incumbents often lay low, relying on name ID; it doesn't appear to be working in the case of Sen. Bob Casey.

The Ole Head in the Sand

It's not unusual for incumbent pols to lay low during election years, relying on largely apathic or discouraged voters and their own name ID to help them stay in office.

Well, that strategy doesn't seem to be working in the case of incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Jr.

Recent polls show the man with Pennsylvania's most bankable political name could be in trouble. And while some of those polls are viewed a tad suspect, new data released Tuesday by respected Quinnipiac polling has Casey holding only a slim (48-45) three-point lead over Western Pennsylvania coal king Tom Smith.

"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," says assistant Q-poll director Tim Malloy. "Casey had a 55-37 percent lead in Quinnipiac University's August 1 survey. Now this race is too close to call."

Smith, a multi-millionaire, has spent tons of his own cash on TV ads labeling Casey "Sen. Zero" and the "invisible Senator," and it sure seems to be working.

It's not that Smith offers much in the way of specific ideas but his hammering at Casey and Washington in general has struck a rich vein of voter anger and mistrust.

Smith says he's running because he's "fed up with what Bob Casey and the political class have done to America." Apparently, he's not alone.

The Casey camp labels Smith "Tea Party Tom" (he founded a regional tea party group some years back), but there are parts of Pennsylvania where that's a plus.

The candidates finally agreed to one debate: Oct. 26 in Philly, to be moderated by WPVI's Jim Gardner and broadcast Sunday the 28th.

Smith isn't the smoothest campaigner, and Casey sure isn't the most electric. But Smith's run is suprising many, and likely to get Casey's head finally out of the sand.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at baerj@phillynews.com.

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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