Day By Day

Monday, February 13, 2006

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum's Woes

Speaking to Republican committeemen in Harrisburg, Rick Santorum said:
"I know that I've not always made it easy for you to get out there and work. You've had to keep your head down sometimes, the things that I've said, the things that I've done," said Santorum, prompting laughter and applause throughout the ballroom that seemed to catch him off guard.

"You don't need to applaud that. Just a silent nodding of the head would be OK," Santorum said.
At least he's got a sense of humor about his predicament.

Some of the committemen [excuse me, "committeepersons of indeterminant gender and/or preference"] praised Santorum for sticking to his guns in the face of determined and overwhelming "outrage" from various interest groups, but others, noting his poor poll numbers, were more wary.

Santorum has worked hard to heal rifts within his conservatives base that stemmed from his support of U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter in the 2004 Republican Senate primary with former U.S. Rep. Pat Toomey.

One committee member said conservatives might not vote or could support Casey. "A lot of people don't view Casey as a real threat because he's pro-gun and pro-life," the member said.

As party leaders publicly professed confidence in Santorum's re-election, others were more guarded.

"I think people are cautiously optimistic," said Walt Volger of Philadelphia.

Read about it here.

There's plenty of time for Santorum to make a comeback, but what should really worry Republicans is that Pennsylvania Democrats have wised up enough to run a conservative candidate. Too bad that the national party remains wedded to the lunatic left. If Casey wins, and wins big, it could go a long way toward changing the internal culture of the Democratic Party -- and that in itself might be a good reason to vote for him.


The latest Quinnipiac Poll [here] illustrates the dual bind Santorum finds himself in.

Fully one-fifth of Republicans, his conservative base, plan to vote for Casey. Even more plan to sit out the election. This is the repercussion of Santorum's support for the widely-despised Arlen Specter two years ago. Many conservatives will never forgive him for that.

Case is pro-life and anti-gun control which makes him acceptable to the broad middle of Pennsylvania voters. 59% of poll respondents consider his views to be "mainstream." At the same time most voters see Santorum's views as "extreme."

The result is that Casey leads in every part of the state, except the Susquehanna valley, where Santorum has a shakey six point lead. What is more Santorum is slipping in the polls. He had climbed up to within eleven points of Casey just two months ago, but the latest poll shows him down by fifteen points, 51-36%.

Democrats have unified behind a mainstream candidate who repudiates the positions of the Party elites. At the same time Republicans have split into irreconcilable moderate and conservative factions. This bodes ill for Rickey. He has to placate both conservative hard-liners and moderates. He's starting to look like a goner.

At least he has kept his sense of humor -- he's going to need it.

There is an interesting aspect to the poll that has implications for national Democrats. They plan to run on a number of domestic issues that they say are matters of concern for ordinary voters. This poll doesn't bear that assumption out.

Whe asked about the problems that most concerned them respondents said:

Minimum wage -- 2%

Outsourcing jobs -- 2%

Healthcare costs -- 6%

Prescription costs -- 1%

Political corruption -- 1%

Education -- 3%

Iraq war -- 1%

Senior issues -- 1%

Environmental issues -- 1%

These are supposed to be the Dems big issues, but none of them resonates with Pa. voters.

What are Pa voters most concerned about?

Taxes are too high -- 20%

Unemployment -- 19%

Taxes are a Republican issue, and unemployment is near an all time low. As public perception of that fact grows the Republicans will reap the benefits.

Since the issues that matter all favor the Republicans the campaigns will concentrate on personalities. That means that it's going to get incredibly down and dirty.

I can't wait.

No comments: