Two recent polls maintain that Republican Tom Smith of Pennsylvania is statistically tied with his Democratic opponent, Bob Casey Jr., in the race for the U.S. Senate. The first poll, an internal Smith poll released Friday, shows the candidates tied at 46 percent. The second, a Susquehanna Research poll conducted for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, found Casey's lead down to just 1 point, 46 percent to 45 percent. Here's more from the Tribune-Review:
Those figures show stagnation for Casey but a 4-point gain for Smith since a Trib-commissioned poll Sept. 12.
The more recent poll of 800 people from Oct. 29-31 has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.
“The momentum has clearly gone to Smith,” said Susquehanna President Jim Lee. He argued Casey made “a near-fatal” mistake by allowing Smith a chance to cast his political persona.
“You never allow the challenger to define himself or herself on his own terms,” Lee said.
Smith, a political neophyte from Western Pennsylvania, had to define himself, too:
The question Smith first had to answer, he says, was, “Who’s Tom Smith?” An ad from May introduced him as a “conservative Republican” businessman and family man. “In the Senate, I’ll fight to repeal Obama-care, cut spending, and I’ll never vote to raise the debt ceiling,” Smith says over images of him in a boardroom and talking with voters in a coffee shop. The final shot shows Smith standing with his wife, daughters, and numerous grandchildren.
Another features a voiceover inviting viewers to “meet Tom Smith.” “His story is the American dream,” the narrator says. “At 40, he was a union coal miner with big dreams. So he mortgaged his family farm to start his own energy company.” The ad shows a photograph of a younger Smith wearing a hard hat and covered in black soot, crouching in a coal mine. It’s the kind of ad meant to persuade viewers that this conservative businessman is “one of them.”
Real Clear Politics has now returned to rating the race a toss-up, although the poll average still gives Casey a 5.2-point lead.
If Smith can defeat Casey, it will be in large part because of Smith's own personal contribution to the campaign. The $17 million of his own money helped purchase television ads in markets across the state, including in the populous Philadelphia market. Smith was the only candidate on air early in Pennsylvania; neither Casey nor the presidential candidates began purchasing ad time until very recently.