When Republican coal magnate Tom Smith won a five-way GOP primary to challenge incumbent Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), few people took his Senate bid seriously — even though he spent more than $4 million of his own fortune to beat his GOP rivals, and Casey has middling approval ratings. But by pouring another $12.5 million of his own money into the race, plus raising millions more from other donors, Smith has effectively spent his way into a close (and tightening) race.
Sen. Robert Casey Jr. (D)
Tom Smith (R)
Former coal company executive
Smith has been aggressively pushing his plan to fix Washington, including enacting a balanced-budget amendment, flattening the tax code, and only paying legislators if they pass a budget. Casey has kept a fairly low profile in the campaign — Smith started a website calling him "Senator Zero" — and is hitting "Tea Party Tom Smith" for his alignment with the grassroots movement and its "extreme" ideas, including sharp cuts to Medicare and Social Security. The two candidates have conducted most of their campaign on the air, with Smith putting his money advantage to good use, blanketing the airwaves for months with little response from Casey until mid-September. The two candidate will debate only once, on Oct. 26.
REAL CLEAR POLITICS POLL AVERAGE
Casey: 47 percent
Smith: 41.7 percent
(See the full data here.)
Smith has closed a sizable gap, with the latest Quinnipiac poll showing him within three points of Casey, says Sean Sullivan at The Washington Post. Given Pennsylvania's Democratic lean, Casey's strong family name (his father was a popular governor), and the fact that he's now on equal TV ad footing with Smith, "Democrats are not panicking." But for the first time it's clear that "Casey will have to really earn a re-election win."
CASH ON HAND (as of Sept. 30):
Casey: $5.2 million on hand; $11.3 million total
Smith: $7 million on hand; $19.5 million total (including $16.5 million in self-financing)
Bob Casey: "The Most"
Tom Smith: "Reform"
More races at a glance:
Massachusetts Senate: Scott Brown vs. Elizabeth Warren
Nebraska Senate: Deb Fischer vs. Bob Kerrey
North Dakota Senate: Rick Berg vs. Heidi Heitkamp
Connecticut Senate: Linda McMahon vs. Chris Murphy
Montana Senate: Jon Tester vs. Denny Rehberg
Virginia Senate: George Allen vs. Tim Kaine
Arizona Senate: Jeff Flake vs. Richard Carmona
Maine Senate: Angus King vs. Charlie Summers vs. Cynthia Dill