Sen. Bob Casey’s lead shrinks to 3 points; Tom Smith leads in grassroots fundraising

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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The under the radar Pennsylvania Senate race has suddenly come to life, with Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey jumping onto the campaign trail as polls show Republican challenger Tom Smith closing in on him.

On Tuesday, a Quinnipiac poll showed Casey leading by a mere three percentage points. The poll appeared one day after it was revealed that Smith had outraised Casey in individual donations, $1.6 million to $1.5 million. On top of that, Smith, a millionaire who is self-funding, had loaned another $10 million to his campaign.

In a phone interview with The Daily Caller, Smith said the tightening of the polls had come as no surprise.

“We felt that all along,” he said. “Our early, early polling showed Sen. Bob Casey’s support very, very thin.”

But the Casey campaign insisted they were unconcerned.

“Three public polls in the past week have shown Bob Casey leading by 11, 10 and nine points,” said Mark Nicastre, a spokesman for the campaign. “With $17 million in personal money, Tom Smith is almost entirely bankrolling his campaign by himself. His millions can buy attack ads, but it can’t cover up his radical agenda that is out of step with Pennsylvania voters.”

“Tom Smith has already dropped 25 to 50 percent of his net worth into the race and he has made clear that he will keep spending,” he added. “As people tune in over the last three weeks they will learn more about how, as the Inquirer said: ‘Smith has been parroting extreme right-wing points of view.’”

But Casey, who has held few campaign events and run even fewer ads over the campaign, suddenly kicked into gear last week. His campaign began running a new ad, and he held what the Allentown Morning Call described as a “rare campaign event” in a campaign that “has kept a low-key, almost nonexistent public profile.”

That’s something that earned Casey criticism from former Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell.

“Casey? He hasn’t run a campaign. He’s run one ad, a stupid Tea Party ad,” Rendell told the Scranton Times-Tribune. “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. … You start spending money, that’ll change.”

A Republican operative familiar with the Smith campaign said that they had rarely, if ever, used a tracker in the campaign.

“Not because we didn’t want to,” the operative said, “he just doesn’t do anything.”

Smith said the final weeks of the campaign would focus on Casey’s record.

“Now we’re delivering the second go of everything, which is pointing Sen. Bob Casey’s voting record, and we’re confident that’s going to be a winning combination here in Pennsylvania which is why the polls have gotten tight and so we’ll keep that momentum going,” Smith said.

Smith has run ads referring to Casey as “Senator Zero,” and calling him the “most ineffective” member of the Senate.

Casey has pushed back on the characterization with a radio ad.

Smith hit Casey for voting for the Affordable Care Act, for the Senate failing to pass a budget, and for the rising national debt.

Smith said he “absolutely” expected Casey to mount a serious offense in the final weeks of the campaign.

“I’m sure he will make up some things and attack me personally, but I won’t lose sight of the fact that Sen. Casey’s voting record will be his undoing,” he said.

Smith said there was nothing Casey could bring up that would concern him.

“Let’s just have at this,” he said.

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