The Bush Factor
I've said it before and darned if I won't say it again: In his quest for re-election to the U.S. Senate, Rick Santorum faces two obstacles. One is Rick Santorum, the other is George Bush.
One is the love-him-hate-him dichotomy among Pennsylvania voters towards the Republican incumbent. I think he can overcome this -- with about $15 million in TV commercials, either by lowering his negatives or raising the negatives of his opponent, Bob Casey Jr. As Carrie Budoff notes in a piece yesterday (Saturday), the Santorum campaign is working hard at going after Casey.
But what about the Bush factor? By that I mean the general discontent among voters -- particularly moderate and swing voters -- over the President's performance that is reflected in his high unfavorable rating. Will the downard pull of the Bush factor prove too strong for Santorum and other Republican candidates? There is evidence that it will. The latest is the new Inquirer-Temple University poll released today (Sunday). The poll shows Casey with a 10-point lead (confirming the trend of most recent public polls). Tom Fitzgerald analyzes the BUsh factor in his piece on the poll.
Here is what these numbers say to me. If this election is seen by voters as a referendum on the Bush administration, a lot of Republican incumbents will be going down. If the Republicans can turn the election into a referendum on the quality and fitness of their opponents, they may survive. We have just over 6 weeks to see which way it turns.