The September Keystone Poll shows Democratic contender Bob Casey Jr. increasing his lead over incumbent Republican Rick Santorum to seven points. The poll, taken September 13-16, 2006, shows Casey beating Santorum 45% to 38%, with Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli taking 5%. The August Keystone Poll had it 44-39-4 for Casey-Santorum-Romanelli.
The Poll was taken after Santorum began running his scandalous and misleading attack advertisement against Casey and following over a month of heavy Santorum advertising buys across the Commonwealth. Sanotrum's blitz appears to have had no positive effect on his standing in the polls, with the incumbent firmly entrenched at or below the 40% mark.
Also having no effect on this race is Green Party candidate Romanelli. He is on the ballot thanks to the financial and logistical support of Santorum faithful. The Santorum campaign encouraged their followers to give money and time to the Green Party petition drive. The floundering farrr-right-wing Republican had hopes of the liberal Romanelli pulling enough votes away from the right-leaning Casey to give the Senator a shot. That didn't work, either. The latest Keystone Poll puts the race not far from where it was last summer, when the June Keystone Poll put Casey in the lead, 44-37%, with 19% undecided.
Keystone reports that 63% of respondents say that they have made up their minds and are certain of their support. Of the 37% who say that they might change their minds before election day, 14% are leaning towards Casey, 19% Santorum, and 5% Romanelli. I guess the remainder are hopelessly clueless.
As, it appears, is the Senator. Despite his heavy advertising on the immigration issue, the Keystone Poll finds that only 5% of respondents view that as the most important issue this year, behind Iraq, the economy, terrorism, health care, and "something else". Santorum's fervent support for the Bush war and economic policies obviously leave Pennsylvania voters cold. In this latest Keystone Poll, the multiterm Senator's unfavorable ratings are the highest they have ever been since Keystone began polling the Senator. Thirty-seven percent of Pennsylvanians have an unfavorable view of Virginia-based Santorum, with only 36% saying they have a favorable view of him. In June 2005, when the Poll results were about the same between Casey and Santorum, 42% had a favorable view and only 26% had a negative opinion of the job their junior Senator was doing.
While the Senator is making no headway getting voters to come over to the dark side, Casey is not ramping up his poll numbers, either. The Senator is stuck below 40% because his far-right-wing policies are so well known and his joined-at-the-hip support for the President firmly rejected. Casey is the obverse of that coin -- he isn't known and he isn't going to great lengths to make himself known. This gives the Senator his opening and his only, desperate hope -- if he can't make them love Rick Santorum, maybe he can make them hate Bob Casey.
Back in June, 2005, the Keystone Poll reported that 40% of respondents had a favorable view of Casey, 9% unfavorable. An incredible 51% didn't know -- incredible because Casey had been on the statewide ballot every second year for the last decade. In the latest poll, Casey's favorable rating has shrunk to 29%, the people having a favorable view of the challenger has risen to 22%, with 49% still not knowing how they feel about him.
With Santorum fading, expect to see more of Santorum spreading venom against Casey in the final weeks of his final Senatorial reelection campaign.
In the last 6 to 8 weeks, the Senator has reportedly spent away all of his cash lead over Casey, with the result that his position in the race has worsened, as has his favorables. Although there is over a month until election day, only an unusual event will turn this around for the Senator and we are now expecting Casey to win by double digits on election day.
In the Governor's Race, Rendell is still mopping the floor with Swann, leading 52-34% with 74% saying that their minds are made up.