With some polls showing a tightening race just three weeks from the election, Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey is fighting to hold off a challenge from Republican Tom Smith, a newcomer to statewide politics who outspent Casey by almost 3-to-1 in the recently completed third quarter.
In Smith’s many TV ads, one of his most visible weapons is calling Casey “Senator Zero,” a reminder that none of Casey’s introduced bills became law during his six years in the U.S. Senate. Casey’s campaign argues that Smith doesn’t understand how Congress works and that a lawmaker must use the process of negotiation and compromise to get his or her legislation folded into larger bills.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense when you look at my record in terms of getting results for people,” Casey said after an appearance Wednesday at a Cumberland County Democratic Party dinner. “I think on a whole host of fronts I get results, and I think people know that.”
A new 60-second Casey campaign ad, for instance, recounts his response to the electrocution of a Pennsylvania-born soldier in a shower in Iraq. As a result, the Defense Department carried out thousands of inspections of electrical wiring and must take other steps going forward to ensure electrical equipment is safer.
Casey also pointed to the high-profile role he took in successfully pressing for a temporary, 2 percentage point cut in the Social Security payroll tax on employees, securing more aid to help laid-off workers get job training and creating a program designed to encourage young pregnant women to keep their babies, not to seek abortions.
Smith made a small fortune in western Pennsylvania’s coal industry and is largely self-financing his campaign.
He joined a rally in Elizabethtown on Monday with Ann Romney, the wife of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and was to appear later in the day at a Centre County Republican Party dinner.
The differences between the two candidates are stark: Casey has voted to increase taxes on higher earners to reduce the nation’s debt and to increase the nation’s debt ceiling to avoid a default on repaying money it has already borrowed and spent. Smith has said he would vote against both.
The election is Nov. 6.
For the three-month third quarter that ended Sept. 30, Casey reported Monday that he had more than $5 million in his campaign account as of Oct. 1, compared with just more than $7 million for Smith.
Aside from tapping his own bank account, Smith raised more than $1.6 million, slightly more than Casey. Smith spent $6.8 million, while Casey spent $2.5 million.