Polls are busting out all over in the big statewide races, all of them depicting leads for Democrats Bob Casey and Ed Rendell. They see varying margins, however, particularly in the Senate race. The latest Keystone Poll, conducted by Franklin and Marshall College, found Democrat Bob Casey leading Sen. Rick Santorum with 45 percent, compared to the incumbent's 38 percent. Carl Romanelli, the Green Party hopeful whose right to a spot on the ballot is being challenged in court, had 5 percent in the Keystone Poll, while 12 percent were undecided.
In a smaller sample of most likely voters, Casey had a 5 percent lead. The numbers showed little movement from the previous Keystone survey last month.
But another survey, the IssuesPA/Pew Poll, showed Casey with a more comfortable lead. That poll, conducted by Princeton Survey Research, showed Casey leading by 52 percent to 31 percent, with 3 percent for Mr. Romanelli and 14 percent undecided. Among the respondents who described themselves as "absolutely certain" to vote, Mr. Casey had an even larger lead, 55 percent to 31 percent.
A Rasmussen survey, meanwhile, shows Mr. Casey up by a touchdown and a field goal -- 49 percent to 39 percent.
In the governor's race, the roundup is: Keystone - Rendell, 52 percent; Lynn Swann, 34 percent; undecided, 14 percent. IssuesPA/Pew - Rendell, 61 percent; Swann, 32 percent; undecided, 7 percent. Rasmussen -- Rendell, 49; Swann, 39 percent, balance undecided. (Rasmussen did not include Romanelli.)
... sez the dean of the Harrisburg newsroom, John Baer: "Democrats anxious to claim the scalp of Rick Santorum no doubt find solace in yet another poll showing Bob Casey Jr. with a nice-size lead. Rightly so ... [Yet] while the governor's race has long been over, I think it's still a tad too early for Democrats to celebrate a sweep. Here's why: The Senate race is quiet, static in polling for the last month or so, but small changes in data appear, in my view, to benefit Santorum. [Gas] prices are falling, the stock market likes that, and there's lots of national attention on terrorism and the anniversary of 9/11."
... This campaign is getting uglier by the minute -- and funnier.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has compiled a "best-of" list of Santorum Meltdowns, starting with the senator's weekend blow-up at Patriot-News reporter Brett Lieberman. In May, the DSCC says, Mr. Santorum came unhinged on a Philadelphia radio show and yelled at the host; last November he lost his temper while being interviewed by radio legend Don Imus; and in 2002, driving in D.C., "Santorum hit the open door of a taxicab. The passenger in the cab, Elizabeth Croydon, said, 'He came close enough to terrify me. I was in shock.' Croydon said that she then received 'harassing phone calls' from Santorum for a few weeks, demanding insurance information." Casey HQ also takes special glee in directing reporters toward a report from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which names Mr. Santorum as one of the 20 most corrupt elected officials in Congress. (Democratic U.S. Rep. Jack Murtha, incidentally, gets a consolation prize, not quite cracking the top 20, but named "one of five to watch." It's like being an understudy -- in the worst play ever.)
Santorum HQ, meanwhile, is poking fun at Mr. Casey's signature facial feature -- his eyebrow(s). In a recent TV ad featuring an old photo of Mr. Casey, the space between Mr. Casey's left eyebrow and right eyebrow seems to have been -- how shall we phrase this? -- deforested. But in the original version of the photo, which Santorum HQ conveniently provides, Mr. Casey is sporting the singular, Bert-from-Sesame-Street-style eyebrow, commonly called a "unibrow." (The version of the photo in the TV ad appears to have been doctored.)
That's right. This election campaign has turned into a referendum on facial hair.
... YouTube strikes again, this time when Mr. Santorum is confronted by a woman who at first seems to be a supporter, but then criticizes the senator over the deal that allowed Pennsylvania taxpayers to pay for the cyber-education of his children, who live primarily in Virginia. At the end of the video, he's visibly agitated, at both the woman, and the media that's allegedly out to get him: "Gee, I wonder why that is. It's just a curious bias in the media around here. It's wonderful -- one person says something negative, and the media rushes and covers that ... [what a] wonderful, balanced media that I love in this community."
To be fair, we in the Wonderful Balanced Media also covered the whole eyebrow thing. And to even things out, here's a Casey Web ad -- which, to our knowledge, has never aired in the Pittsburgh TV market -- that uses Bob Casey's daughters in virtually the same role that Mr. Santorum used his own, plugging their dad's election campaign.
... Vince Galko, Rick Santorum's savvy campaign manager, hosted a conference call today noting that he had asked the treasurer's office, occupied by a fellow named Bob Casey, for the treasury's investment records: where the money is invested, who manages the investments, and pretty much everything else the treasury does, or might do, or might have considered doing with its investments in the past.
Mr. Galko had plenty of questions, but no specific accusations about the treasury's operations.
"Are they purposely trying to hide this until election day, and if so why," he said of the request he sent to Mr. Casey's Harrisburg office on Sept. 5. He said he's interested, among other things, in whether state dollars are invested in companies that outsource jobs, or have gaming interests, or ethical problems, or ties to Casey contributors.
"If there's nothing wrong I don't see why there would be any problem releasing this information. [We're] certainly not accusing him of violating any law ... We're just saying that there are a lot of questions here that need to be answered."
Mr. Casey's press sectary, Larry Smar, called the request "nothing more than a politically motivated fishing expedition."
"They're getting to the point in the campaign where they're trying to find something else to attack Bob Casey on," he added. "We're still waiting on the Santorum campaign to turn over a bunch of documentation, like the financial records of his charity."
... Rick Santorum will be hanging out with Vice President Dick Cheney at a private fund-raiser Friday in Washington County. The two have no public events. That might be just as well for the senator's campaign -- though the approval ratings for Cheney's boss have ticked up in recent polls nationally, and, to a lesser extent, in Pennsylvania, they still make the administration's image look like a drag on the Senate incumbent. The good news: Mr. Cheney still has the ability to attract the cash from the GOP base. At gunpoint, if necessary.
That other top-of-the-ticket race
You'll be happy to learn that the American Federation of Teachers and the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers will endorse Governor Ed Rendell for re-election at tonight's 7 p.m. meeting.
Did we say happy? We meant indifferent. In a related, but more sexually ambiguous, sidebar, the Gertrude Stein Political Club of Greater Pittsburgh has also endorsed the sitting governor. "The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community is a valuable part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and I will continue to stand up for their rights throughout my next term as governor," the governor said in a press release.
... The Swann campaign has a new one-minute radio spot, and it aims squarely at the 2005 pay, and Gov. Rendell's role in it. The ad begins with the sound of crickets chirping, then the gong of a grandfather clock (presumably striking midnight), then goes on to chastise Mr. Rendell for negotiating and signing the midnight pay hike for the "Harrisburg insider crowd." Mr. Rendell is "playing an old-time political gimmick, at our expense," says the serious-sounding narrator. Mr. Swann himself speaks in this ad, and then it's back to the narrator, who says Lynn Swann's plan for reducing property taxes, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, is "the boldest such proposal ever put forward." (The same Inquirer story said Swann plan is "short on detail and the political equivalent of a Hail Mary pass," which the ad never got around to mentioning.)
... The same Swann ad says the footballer has spent his entire life bringing people together, but he hasn't been able to bring all of his former teammates to endorse him: In their Super Bowl years, Franco Harris used to room on the road with Mr. Swann. Yet their past ties and glorious memories weren't enough to bring Mr. Harris into the Swann gubernatorial camp. (Maybe Swann snores?) Mr. Harris was campaigning with Mr. Rendell yesterday in Wilkinsburg. It might not be remembered as the Immaculate Endorsement, but the governor will take it.
On the campaign trail
Democrat Jason Altmire, challenging Republican U.S. Rep. Melissa Hart in Pennsylvania's 4th Congressional District, is trying to link Ms. Hart to Ohio's U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, the Republican lawmaker who last week admitted his guilt in the Abramoff lobbying scandal: "According to the federal campaign finance Web site tray.com, Ms. Hart and Ney were among four members of Congress who formed a joint fundraising committee -- Good Government 2004 -- during the 2003 and 2004 election cycle ... 'She was a partner with Ney in a joint fundraising committee exactly at the same time he was committing these campaign violations for which he has pled guilty,' Altmire said."
... Former Gov. and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge is making his way to Iowa as the featured speaker at the big Iowa Republican party dinner. Mr. Ridge hasn't been in the speculative mix of GOP presidential hopefuls, although the dais he will occupy -- in the state that starts the nominating process -- has been the launching pad for several candidates in the past. So what the heck, let's start a rumor.
Here's the DesMoines Register's take on the guy nobody's heard of from the town no one's been to.