The Magazine

Will Casey Strike Out?

Don't count out Rick Santorum.

Jul 31, 2006, Vol. 11, No. 43 • By SALENA ZITO
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And he's been around for awhile. There's no question the powers of incumbency will work to Santorum's advantage. It won't be long, for example, before the senator starts talking about how he saved several of Pennsylvania's military bases--including the 911th Airlift Wing in Pittsburgh and the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks--from closure last year by the Base Realignment and Closure commission, or BRAC.

Santorum also worked closely with Rendell to protect the Willow Grove Naval Air Station from cuts--something Rendell won't soon forget. "Rick Santorum has proven that he gets the job done. Time and time again he has come through," Rendell told me. "Just look at what he did with the BRAC."

"I will eventually campaign with Casey," Rendell went on. "But, no, you won't see me attack Santorum." He added, "I work well with him and [U.S. Sen. Arlen] Specter. When it comes to Pennsylvania, Santorum delivers."

There's another way that being the incumbent helps Santorum. He can look to national Republican heavy hitters like former New York mayor and possible presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani for support. On July 11, in Pittsburgh, Giuliani attended a fundraiser and subsequent rally for Santorum held by local city police, firemen, and first responders.

"Santorum has been a great advocate of the men and women of law enforcement," Giuliani told me as he and Santorum walked across the Roberto Clemente Bridge, which was closed for Major League Baseball's annual All-Star Game. "And he has shown great leadership in the Senate with issues that affect their daily livelihood, like border security and illegal immigration." Look for more national Republicans to flock to Santorum's side in the coming months.

Santorum holds one last trump card. In 2004, the Pennsylvania Republican party was bitterly divided between establishment types supporting veteran senator Arlen Specter and conservative re formers supporting his Republican primary challenger, Rep. Pat Toomey. Toomey, who now runs the conservative Club for Growth, lost that contest--but he seems to harbor no ill will toward Santorum, who supported Specter.

"It is way past time to get on to the business of reelecting Rick," says Toomey, who added that the conservative reform movement in Pennsylvania will be right behind him.

"Are [conservatives] angry?" Toomey asks. "Yes, but in the end, they are going to be there for him." One more reason a Casey victory is far from inevitable.

Salena Zito is an editorial columnist and political reporter for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. She worked on Sen. Santorum's 2000 reelection campaign.