Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Questions & Answers

Question: Who awards himself with a donut for every $100,000 he raises? Answer

Question: Who was the first to discover that "finmeccanica" is an Italian phrase meaning "nepotism." Answer

Question: Is there any evidence that the residency issue is still bedeviling Rick Santorum ? Answer

Question: Who got on a bus imediately afterwards and headed for Atlantic City? Answer

Question: What do you do when you are trialing in double digits and it's a week out from election day? Answer

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Inside the Fishbowl

When I was a kid reporter, the Editorial Board of the paper was strictly off limits.
It was on another floor. The Editorial Writers rarely mingled with reporters. Even when they did call -- usually to ask a mundane question about a story we did -- they began by offering their apologies for breaching the wall between the two departments.
This is the way is was meant to be. The Editorial Board dealt with Opinion. The reporters dealt with Facts. The same is true today. As a reporter, I have no business in trying to convince the board to take a certain position on an issue. In the same way, members of the Editorial Board have no business in trying to influence what stories I write or cover.
And it always exhibited itself at election time. Though you could never convince candidates of it, the two sides rarely communicated with each other. In fact, when candidates came to talk to the Board, it was strictly off-the-record and reporters were barred from the proceedings.
That Church-State separation remains true today, but the secrecy has melted away.
Now, when folks visit to talk to the Editorial Board, the sessions are on-the-record. Reporters on relevant beats get invited to sit in, free to report on the event in case any news erupts.
The new transparency is reflected in the architecture of the the board's meeting room. At The Inquirer, it is a large conference room with floor-to-ceiling windows facing the hallway and the main elevators on the 2nd floor of 400 North Board Street. They call it the fishbowl -- because it resembles one. In fact, they have decorated it with cloth and plastic fish, which hang from the ceiling.
This year the Editorial Board took a second step in opening up the process. It has taken to recording its candidate interviews and posting them on the web. Here is the home page of the interviews posted so far.
The board has begun trying to get competing candidates to appear at the same time, so they can hold a face-to-face debate. So far, they got candidates in the three hottest congressional races in the Philly region to do it.
Theyturned out to be fairly meaty sessions, where the candidates are asked to discourse on a variety of issues. The sessions -- and the recordings -- often last for more than a hour.
A lot of what you hear, at least at the beginning are the standard stump speeches. But, then the questions begin and the back-and-forth can get fairly heated.
I encourage you to scan through them. For those of you who don't have the hours needed to listen to them in their totality, let me offer a brief highlights guide:
In the the 1st installment of the Bob Casey Jr. interview, go to minute 21:second 19 to hear him on the issue of immigration reform and slam Rick Santorum for being a hypocrite and fraud on the issue.
In Casey 2, hear him get passionate about Social Security, from minute 0 to about minute 5:00.
Hear a Q&A on his contradictory stands on wireless wiretapping from 5:11 through 9:00.
And, at 15:55 hear him answer this question: "Are you too mild-mannered to fight for Pennsylvania?
In Santorum 1, hear him give a lucud exposition on the topic "Why I Deserve to Be Re-election," from 0:00 to 2:34. At 2:50, he launches into a seven-minute disquisition on Iraq, but seeks to make the case that Iran is the real threat. At around 9:00, he begins to talk about Islamofascism -- one of his favorite topics. Note: Casey & Santorum appeared before the board on different days.
In Rendell I, he is asked to list some of his accomplishments at 0:00. He finally rolls to a stop at 21:16. Along the way, he bitches about how The Inquirer has failed to cover his many achievements.
In Rendell 2, he is asked about the notorious and nefarious pay grab at 0:58 and he tells why he signed it and why he now thinks it is a mistake until about 5:00. At 5:40, he does a four-minute riff about how lousy the press is in reporting his achievements. (You may notice a trend here.)
In Swann 1, he makes his basic pitch on "Why You Should Vote for Me," from 0:00 through 4:20. The board then tells him Rendell's defense of the pay raise and he goes on a riff attacking the Governor for signing the bill from 4:20 for about three minutes. Note: Rendell & Swann appears before the board on different days. Also, at 18:15 through 23:47 Swann ends up boxing with the board over his property tax proposal.
In Swann 2, he boxes with the board over violence and gun control and makes it clear he is pure NRA on all measures. This section lasts from 0:00 to about 8:10.
Some other highlights:
In Gerlach/Murphy II, the two spar on their negative campaigns for about 5 minutes beginning at 18:55.
In Weldon/Sestak II, Weldon is asked about nepotism charges regarding his children at 0:00 and he defends himself up to 8:02. Sestak is then asked about charges that he's an abrasive S.O.B and he defends himself for about 6 minutes (He does go on. Sestak rarely wavered from his stump speech.) At 12:00 through 15:00, Weldon talks about his close ties to local pols, etc. and Sestak interrupts to call them "a bunch of bubbas" in the district. Weldon says, increduously: "Did you just call them bubbas?"
In Schwartz/Bhakta II, Bhatka is asked about his playing the race card in the Northeast at 4:05 and he answers at length. At 30:25, he is asked about his various DUI's and his "maturity" and he boxes with the Editorial Board for four minutes.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What's That Song I Hear?

Time to play Taps for U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood.
The latest Keystone Poll out today shows him trailing his Democratic opponent, Chris Carney, by 9 percentage points in Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District.
The problem isn't the margin in points. It's not impossible to make up the difference.
The problem is that voters in the district all know about Sherwood's extra-marital affair and they are judging him harshly for it. It's the issue that won't go away.
As Madonna told the Daily News: "The affair is the single driving issue in the campaign. You can't reach any other conclusion."
The poll, conducted by Terry Madonna's crew at Franklin & Marshall College had a sample of 384 voters and a plus/minus margin of error of 5%.
There is no reason for Sherwood to lose PA10 -- were it not for the sex scandal.
This used to be U.S. Rep. Joe McDade's district, but it was redrawn in reapportionment to extract Democratic-leaning Scranton and add rural Republican communities along the northern tier.
It is resolutely Republican in its voting habits. If anyone wants further evidence of the GOP being in trouble with the voters, the Keystone Poll provides it.
For instance, 40% of the district's voters give President Bush a performance rating of "Poor." Another 23% say it is "Only Fair." If this were school, that would average out to a D-minus grade. Not good.
In the gubernatorial race, Ed Rendell is ahead of Lynn Swann 50%-36%, with 14% DNK.
Most of the undecideds are leaning towards Rendell. He could end up winning by 10 points here. Astonishing.
In the U.S. Senate race, Rick Santorum leads Bob Casey Jr. 46%-41%, with 13% DNK. Again, most of the undecides are leaning towards the Democrat. Translation: Casey could win PA10 or Santorum could take it by a hair. The Casey name is known up here -- but this should be an area of the state where Santorum is king.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Day, Another Poll

This one is from McClatchy-MSNBC, sample size 650, and it tracks with the results of most of the public polls in recent weeks.
It shows Bob Casey 12 points up on Rick Santorum in the U.S. Senate race, Gov. Rendell with a 21-point lead over Lynn Swann.

For the record, it was Casey 51% - Santorum 39% - 10% Undecided/Other
For the record, it was Rendell 56%- Swann 35% - 9% Undecided/Other

Here is the poll story, as it ran in the Centre Daily Times. Here is a link to the questionnaire. And, for number freaks, here is are the tabs from the poll.
A couple of interesting numbers that illuminate Santorum's problem:
A huge gender gap. Women prefer Casey 52%-35%
Problems among independent voters, who favor Casey 54%-36%
He is losing the Pa. Burbs, 52%-35%.
(Though I am always wary of regional breakdowns because of the small size of the sample.)
The margin of error in the poll overall is plus/minus 4%.

Speaking of which, the Santorum campaign is up with another (very clever) earth-tone Rick commercial called "Wrestling."

Monday, October 23, 2006

New & Recommended

The Times of London dips into the Senate race in Pennsylvania and pronounces it a harbinger of a return of Reagan Democrats to the Democratic fold. It's a bit of a stretch to me, but it's worth reading.

My colleague Carrie Budoff's profile of Rick Santorum in the Sunday Inquirer. And Tom Fitzgerald's profile of Bob Casey Jr. in the same paper on the same day. A great headline over these pieces: The Megaphone Meets the Metronome.

Brad Bumstead's piece in the Tribune-Review indicates the Republicans are worried that they may lose control of the state House. These local elections don't get much attention in the media, so it's good to see this analysis.

A piece in the New York Sun, of all places, about a Republican mailing that blames Chris Carney for starting the Iraq War. Carney is the Democrat opposing the mistress-impaired U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood in PA10. The mailing signals a new shrillness in the race, probably due to the fact that Sherwood is down (and appears nearly out) in recent public polls.

A piece by Dennis Roddy of the Post-Gazette on Curt Weldon, an essay on the congressman's tendency of lurching towards "the dark corners of conjecture." (also known as the Wacko Factor.)

My colleague Mario Cattabiani has a nice piece in today's Inquirer about Lynn Swann's days as a Pittsburgh Steeler. Short sum: His former teammates love the guy, but some of them just don't see him as governor.

Finally, a link to the weekly Pennsy Political Podcast, which has a take off on Santorum's latest TV commercial, "Bicker," where he pronounces himself a fighter.

Become a Pundit, Win A Prize

A reminder of my Pundit Contest.
Pick the winners of the statewide races in the Nov. 7th election and become a certified Political Pundit, plus win a $25 gift card to Borders.
In order to win, here is what you must do:

1. Correctly predict the winners of Pennsylvania's Nov. 7th election for Governor & U.S. Senate and list the percentage of votes each candidate gets. (For the record, the candidates for governor at Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Lynn Swann; the candidates for U.S. Senate are Democrat Bob Casey Jr. and Republican Rick Santorum
2. As a tiebreaker, you must also predict the exact number of votes, rounded to the nearest thousand, that will be cast statewide in the race for U.S. Senate, which is the race that tops the ballot this year. (For the record, there are about 8 million registered voters in in Pennsylvania.)

Sample Entry:
Tom: I want to be a pundit!
Here is my prediction for the Nov. 7th election:
Bob Casey Jr. -- 54% of the vote Rick Santorum - 46%
Ed Rendell -- 58% Lynn Swann - 42%
Total votes cast: 3,773,000

The deadline is 11:59 p.m., Monday, Nov. 6th. Do not submit your entry via a posting. Send it to my email address: tferrick@phillynews.com Include your name and address.
The winner will be announced in this space at noon, Wednesday, Nov. 8th. The vote total will be based upon the latest Associated Press count as of 11 a.m. that day.

Don't miss this opportunity to become a pundit. Email your entry today!

Friday, October 20, 2006

More Mother's Milk

As Jessie Unruh said, money is the mother's milk of politics.
Well, mommy sure has been pumping it out this year.
To date, the candidates for congress, governor and U.S. Senate have spent a total of $73 million in Pennsylvania.
But wait, there's more.
They had $38 million left to spend in the final weeks of the 2006 fall campaign.
By Nov. 7th, election spending by these candidates should exceed $111 million.
And that doesn't include the money being spent on behalf of candidates by party committees and various soft-money groups, a figure which I expect will total another $10 million, most of it going directly into television.
Nor does it include the millions being spent for state House and state Senate races, which I estimate will top $12 million this year.
Estimated grand total, when all is said and done, probably $130 to $140 million. It will average out to about $35 for each voter who shows up on Election Day. And that's a conservative estimate.

The most expensive race, not surprisingly, is the contest between U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum and Bob Casey Jr. The two candidate have spent $31 million so far, and had a total of $7 million on hand as of Sept. 30th. As of that same date, Santorum had outspent Casey $18.8 million to $11.2 million, but the yield on the extra $7.7 million Santorum spent has been poor. He has yet to break 40% in most of the head-to-head public opinion polls.

The most lopsided race, in terms of money and (most likely)in votes, is the race for governor. As of Sept. 18th, the two candidates had spent a total of $16.7 million and they had $17 million on hand to spend in the final seven weeks. But those totals are deceptive. Incumbent Gov. Ed Rendell ($12.6 million) has outspent Republican Lynn Swann ($4.1 million) by a margin of 3-1. Rendell has enough on hand to continue that pace. As of the latest report, he had $13.7 million in his campaign account, compared to $3.7 million for Swann. Another spending report is due next Friday.

The most expensive Congressional race so far has been in PA6, the Montco-Bucks-Chesco-Berks district where incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach faces Democrat Lois Murphy. The two had spent a total of $3.7 million as of 9-30, and had $2 million left. This is one race where the spending is even: Murphy has matched Gerlach dollar for dollar. This is also a race where the party committees are likely to match candidate spending in the final weeks. Here is OpenSecret.org's PA6 summary.

Close behind, we have the race in the Bucks-centered PA8 between incumbent U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick and challenger Pat Murphy. They had spent $3.2 million as of 9-30. This is one district where the challenger had the money edge going into the final weeks. Democrat Murphy had $632,000 on hand on 9-30, compared to Fitzpatrick's $446,000. Here is a PA8 summary.

Finally, we have the Delco-centered PA7, where incumbent U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon faces Democrat Joe Sestak. As of 9-30, the two had spent $2. million and had $2.6 million left, with a slight edge to Sestak. One must wonder, though, whether word of the federal investigation into Weldon's daughter and political associate Charlie Sexton will make who spends what in the final weeks irrelevant. Here is a PA7 summary.

In PA10, which spreads across a multitude of counties in the state's northeast tier, incumbent U.S. Rep Don Sherwood ($1.2 million) has outspent his Democratic opponent Chris Carney (660,000) by a margin of 2-1. But this may be another example of where money cannot buy happiness. Sherwood is being dragged down by his (admitted) extra-marital affair and his (denied) abuse of his mistress. Here is the PA10 summary.

Two other races of note:

-- In PA12, in the state's southwest, warhorse U.S. Rep. John Murtha is facing a challenge from Republican warhawk Diana Irey. Conervative Republicans hope to punish Murtha for his outspoken criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War. But, it will be hard for Orey to gain traction without more money. So far, Murtha has outspent her 5-1. Here is a PA12 summary.
-- In PA13, which straddles Northeast Philly and Montco, freshman U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz faces the unitentionally hilarious Raj Bhakta. It's no content when he comes to money. Schwartz ($1.7 million) has outspent Bhatka ($352,000) by a margin of 5-1. Here is the latest PA13 summary.

If your favorite congressional race was omitted, go to OpenSecrets.org for details.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Eye of Mordor?

A friend who works at Bloomberg News in New York sent me an item yesterday in which Sen. Rick Santorum was quoted as saying that the United States has avoided a 2nd terrorist attack because the "Eye of Mordor" was drawn to Iraq.
I sent him a note back, telling him to stop kidding and not let something like that get out on the wire. These fantastical stories, done up as jokes, can get people into trouble.

Today, I get up and start doing by dawn web scan and what do I see? The following item from the Uniontown Herald-Standard:

LEVITTOWN - Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has instead been drawn to Iraq.

Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic, "Lord of the Rings," to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron (blogger's note: the pix above is of Lord Sauron in happier days.) used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.

"It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.," he continued. "You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."
The 12-year Republican senator from Pennsylvania said he's "a big Lord of the Rings fan." He's read the first of the series, "The Hobbit" to his children (he has six).
Santorum made his comments before the Bucks County Courier Times editorial board late last week. The Bucks County Courier Times is a sister paper of the Herald-Standard. Both are owned by Calkins Media.

I think it's interesting that Santorum related his tale in "terms any school kid could easily understand" in an appearance before an editorial board. I wonder if he used finger puppets as well?

Come to think of it, though, President Bush does resemble Frodo.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Mood Indigo

What's the mood of American voters as we head into the final weeks of the fall campaign?
I would pick the color indigo, which my dictionary defines as "deeper than night blue."
The polls tell us the mood is strong anti-Bush, anti-Congress, anti-incumbent, anti-Iraq War and that the majority of voters think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Blue voters tend to vote blue.
The problem with this polling data is that while you can ask questions that reflect on mood, there is no precise and direct way to predict voter behavior based upon that data. The missing ingredient: the measure of intensity.
For instance, we know that conservative Republicans are turned off by the scandals in Washington, but are they so deflated that will stay home on Election Day? We know that Democrats are upset about the Iraq War, but are they upset enough to turn out in droves to punish the ruling party? Finally, we know that most Americans are unhappy with the job perfrormance of Congress, but does that reverberate locally, where voters tend to vote the man, not the party?
So many questions, so little time.
Let's take a look at the snapshots we do have for answers.
First, there are benchmark questions related to job performance of President Bush and Congress. To put it gently, their ratings suck. RealClearPolitics, a wonderful site which does a rolling average of the polls taken nationally, puts the President's approval rating around 39% and gives Congress an abysmal 27%. This is up from late summer, but still lousy.
On pollsters' favorite "mood" question -- Do you think the country is headed in the right direction or wrong direction? -- the RealClear average is 29% right to 65% wrong. A bad omen for incumbents and the party in power. Here are all the numbers from recent polls if you want to run you fingers through them.

Next, we have the situation in Pennsylvania. How do these trends lines reflect in the hot local races? In sum, it means a lot of Republican incumbents are vulnerable.
At the top of the pyramid is incumbent U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, stuck at 40% in head-to-heads with his Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr. in public polls for months. You don't need polling data to know that Santorum is losing. You can see it on his face.
The RealClearPolitics average has it at Casey 49.5%-Santorum 40.0%- 9.5% undecided at of mid-October. Santorum would have to capture all the undecideds to win. That's not at all likely, given past trends. Because of the mood indigo, most undecideds are expected to go to the Democrats this year.

In the congressional races, were have two special situations.
In PA10, there is incumbent Rep. Don Sherwood, who shouldn't even be breaking a sweat because his district is so decidedly Republican. But, Sherwood is in trouble -- apparently deep trouble -- because of disclosure that he has kept a mistress in Washington and an allegation that he abused her. All the fall polls done in the district have Carney up 7 to 14 points. Again, you don't need to look at the polls to see that Sherwood is in trouble. Just view his own link '>TV commercial, where he does a major mea culpa for the folks back home.
In PA7, incumbent Curt Weldon was already locked in a tough fight with Joe Sestak. Then, this week, came word of a federal investigation into Weldon, centered around the lobbying-public relations firm started by his daughter Karen and political ally Charlie Sexton. The papers this week were filled with pix of FBI agents carrying boxes of material from Karen Weldon's home in Philly and Sexton's house in Delco. Long story short, Weldon is toast. The damage from the investigation -- combined with all the other drag factors -- will tip the race to Sestak, a fresh face who has run a credible campaign.

To me, the bellweather races are PA6 and PA8. These are seats with strong Republican incumbents who should win -- unless the indigo does them in.
In PA6, U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach is in a rematch with Democrat Lois Murphy. The most recent polls show the race trending slightly to Murphy. My rule of thumb this year is: unless the incumbent is up 3 points or more in the final polls of the season, he is done for. That's based on the assumption that Election Day will be indigo in color, with turnout favoring the anti's.
In PA8, we have first termer Mike Fitzpatrick against Democrat Pay Murphy. The credible polls there are trending towards Fitzpatrick, which is ironic -- at the beginning of the year, he was considered the most vulnerable, but he seems to have done a good job in putting distance between himself and the Bush administration.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

A Jon Lovitz Moment

In watching the third and final Casey-Santorum debate last night on TV, I couldn't help thinking of a line fed to me by a commenter after their first face-to-face in Pittsburgh the other week.
He said it reminded him of the old Saturday Night Live skit where Jon Lovitz plays Michael Dukakis in a debate.
At one point, Lovitz stares into the camera and says: "I can't believe I'm losing to this guy!"
Anyone who saw Rick Santorum's face during the debate realizes he was having a Jon Lovitz moment.
The incumbent admits to being "exasperated" by what he says is the Democrats refusal to give detailed answers. But it's clear Santorum's exasperation is more cosmic. He is losing this race. He knows it. The tectonics in the final weeks are moving against Republicans. He keeps trying to get his hooks into Casey. He cannot. To use another word (see post below), he is flustrated. And it shows.
Here is a sampling of debate coverage in The Inquirer, in the Post-Gazette and in the Daily News.
The concensus appears to be: Casey did well by not doing poorly. He is no match to Santorum on the facts (as the Republican keeps pointing out), but is able to get his points across. In fact, last night's debate -- as opposed to the rock 'em-sock 'em one in Pittsburgh -- was more about laying out their respective talking points which, to boil down to their essence, are as follows:
Santorum: Bob Casey an empty suit born on third base who is not up to the job of being U.S. Senator.
Casey: Santorum is a Bush lap dog who holds extremist views and who doesn't deserve re-election as U.S. Senator.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Benjamin Factor

More of the campaign finance reports for federal candidates are being filed on the Federal Elections Commission web site. You can find it under Useful Sites on the right.
The reports were due Oct. 15th for the three-month period ending Sept. 30th.

The big news is how well Bob Casey did in fundraising in the 3rd quarter. He raised $4.1 million dollars in 12 weeks and had $3.7 million on hand as of Sept. 30th. Casey is the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate. The 3rd-quarter report of Republican U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was not available on the FEC site as of this afternoon. I'll check tomorrow.

Postscript added Oct. 17: The Santorum numbers show that he raised $3.5 million in the 12 weeks leading up to Sept. 30 and had $3.5 million on hand as of 9-30. Santorum has raised a total of $23.2 million, compared to Casey's $14.7 million. That said, both candidates had roughly the same amount on hand for the final weeks of the campaign.

I've also run the numbers on selected Congressional races, which you can find here.

The reports that date from June 30th, the last filing deadline, are noted in boldface.
I'll search for updates on these as well.

The important figure is Cash on Hand -- the amount of money the candidate had left in his campaign treasury as of Sept. 30th. As you can see, most of the candidates had healthy balances socked away on that date for the five weeks before the Nov. 7th election.

Postscript added Oct. 18th: All the 9/30 reports are posted and I have amended my table to reflect the new filings. Any candidate with a boldface date were not up-to-date when I filed originally.

This Just In....

The FBI this morning raided the homes of Karen Weldon and Charlie Sexton and departed carrying out boxes of material from both. Read the Philly.com story here.

Also, see the posting directly below for background on the case.

FBI Probes Weldon

In what could be a kiss of death to his re-election campaign, there were a spate of news stories over the weekend that U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon is under federal investigation.
The story was broken by the McClatchy Newspapers Washington Bureau on Friday. It quickly spread to the Washington Post, the wires, and to the Inquirer. Bob Warner has more on it in today's Daily News as part of a profile of the race in Delaware County's 7th Congressional District, where the 10-term Republican congressman is already facing a strong challenge from Democrat Joe Sestak.
The case involves Weldon's daughter, Karen, and a lobbying-consulting group she created along with Charlie Sexton, the Springfield Twp., Pa. Republican political boss.
A graph from an AP story on the probe:
Two people familiar with the investigation confirmed that federal agents were examining Weldon's work between 2002 and 2004 to help two Russian companies and two Serbian brothers connected to former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. They had hired Solutions North America Inc., a company operated by Karen Weldon and Charles Sexton, a Republican ally of the congressman.
The Weldon story first broke in the Los Angeles Times, which did a 3,500-word investigative piece on the Karen Weldon business in 2004. Go here for the complete text of the LAT story.
The case was referred to the House Ethics Committee, which never made a public ruling on the matter.
Now it looks as if the feds are on the case.

Live Update

As I write this, Rick Santorum and Bob Casey are debating live on KYW-AM Radio. You can link up via the KYW site.
To summarize the debate so far:
Santorum is accusing Casey of not working hard enough and Casey is criticizing Santorum for working too hard for the wrong causes.
The debate is a low-keyed version of their slugfest in Pittsburgh last wee.
The two will debate again tonight at 7 p.m. on WPVI-TV (Channel 6), with a rebroadcast on PCN at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Become a Pundit, Win a Prize

People always ask me: How can I become a political pundit? The short answer is, you must be accepted into membership in the American Pundits Guild.This is a select group, created by the National Newspaper Columnists Act of 1934, which dispenses about 90 percent of this nation's punditry. (It used to be 100%, but some of it has been off-shored to India in recent years.)
The APG is headquartered – where else? -- in Washington, D.C. The current head is E. J. Dionne. His official title is Most High Priest, but we won't get into that now.
Because this is the Blog That Cares ©, I am going to once again offer you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become a certified political pundit -- and win a wonderful prize!
All you must do is enter my Semi-Annual Regional Pundits Contest.
The winner will get an official APG certificate, suitable for framing, declaring him or her a Political Pundit, First Class.
You will also win a $25 gift card to Borders, which will come from my very own Pundit's Expense Account (which I will list as "Lunch with Source.")
In order to win, here is what you must do:

1. Correctly predict the winners of Pennsylvania's Nov. 7th election for Governor & U.S. Senate and list the percentage of votes each candidate gets. (For the record, the candidates for governor at Democrat Ed Rendell and Republican Lynn Swann; the candidates for U.S. Senate are Democrat Bob Casey Jr. and Republican Rick Santorum

2. As a tiebreaker, you must also predict the exact number of votes, rounded to the nearest thousand, that will be cast statewide in the race for U.S. Senate, which is the race that tops the ballot this year. (For the record, there are about 8 million registered voters in in Pennsylvania.)

Sample Entry:
Tom: I want to be a pundit! Here is my prediction for the Nov. 7th election:
Bob Casey Jr. -- 54% of the vote
Rick Santorum - 46%

Ed Rendell -- 58%
Lynn Swann - 42%

Total votes cast: 3,773,000

The deadline is 11:59 p.m., Monday, Nov. 6th.

Do not submit your entry via a posting.
Send it to my email address: tferrick@phillynews.com
Include your name and address.

The winner will be announced in this space at noon, Wednesday, Nov. 8th. The vote total will be based upon the latest Associated Press count as of 11 a.m. that day.

Don't miss this opportunity to become a pundit. Email your entry today!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Jab, Punch, Jab, Punch

Towards the end of the Phillies season, as the team was in the midst of its (as always) losing effort to make the playoffs, manager Charlie Manuel was asked on a radio interview about Pat Burrell, the Phils perpetually slumping slugger.
I feel bad for Pat, Charlie replied, he's flustrated.
Thus, with his marvelous malaprop, did Manuel coin a new and wonderful word. A conflation of flustered and frustrated, flustration perfectly decribes those moments when things are going bad and you don't know what to do about it.
In the race for the U.S. Senate, Rick Santorum is flustrated.
The incumbent has spent $10 million or more to earn the love and respect of Pennsylvania voters and has fallen short -- way short. If the election were held today, Santorum would lose, perhaps by double-digits. Even with three-plus weeks until Election Day, it is unlikely he can catch up, his own problems compounded by the anti-Bush drag that threatens all Republicans. Political professionals (and professional bettors) have started to look at Pennsylvania and put a check mark next to the name of Bob Casey Jr.
So, is it any surprise that Santorum came out swinging at last night's televised debate on KDKA? To describe it, reporters covering the debate reached into their huge kit bags of sports cliches and pulled out the ones under the heading "BOXING." Here's a sample of the coverage: on KDKA-TV, which hosted the debate, in the Inquirer, in the Post-Gazette, (which also includes audio links) and in the Patriot News, whose story carried the headline: The gloves come off.

With Santorum, as always, what you see is you get: cold political calculation -- an aggressive debate strategy designed to rough-up Casey -- mixed with red-hot emotion. As he said at the end of the debate: "You can see from this debate -- I'm a passionate guy. I'm tough. I'm a fighter. But you know what? I'm an Italian kid from a steel town. What do you expect from me? ... I wasn't born into a family that had a great name."

Of course, Santorum's central problem is the feeling among voters that while he's happy to fight for you, he's just as happy to fight you. An example is the YouTube moment the senator had last month in Camp Hill, Pa. where a voter, who questioned the senator's residency, set Santorum off. Even when she tried to back off, he chased her down to verbally smack her a few more times. Have a nice day!
Santorum's first task in this campaign was to shed his image, apparently fixed in the minds of Democratic and swing voters, that he is an arrogant (explicit language alert) asshole, with a touch of fanaticism. My Merriam-Webster's defines fanaticism as an exhibition of "excessive enthusiasm, unreasoning zeal, or wild and extravagant notions on some subject." Sounds about right.
This is a tough image to shake and the poll numbers indicate Santorum hasn't succeeded, despite a series of ads designed to portray him as a nice guy. Santorum does burn hot. It surely flustrates him that what he sees as an asset -- his passion -- has become such a liability. In recent ads -- and in last night's debate -- he's shed the happy-face Mr. Nice Guy tee-shirt and gone back to being The Fighter.

But fight against whom? So far, he's been campaigning against a ghost. The Casey strategy has been to keep their guy under wraps and keep the focus on Santorum, under the sound theory that the incumbent's worst enemy is the guy who stares back at him when he looks into the mirror of his (Washington? Penn Hills?) home. Through the summer and into the fall, Santorum's been dancing around the ring, his gloves on, punching and jabbing at thin air. Last night, Casey showed up in the flesh, knowing Santorum would be coming at him, so he answered in kind. Santorum's better at it, but those Casey blows about cyberschooling hit the incumbent where it hurt the most with Pittsburgh voters.

The two meet again next week in debates in Philadelphia, so get your scoring cards ready. At least it will be interesting. But, at this late stage of the campaign, with Santorum's numbers stuck on loser, will it make a difference?

Like Charlie Manuel said, it's flustrating.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Raj Peter Bhakta

Somewhere between farce and the absurd lies the congressional campaign of Raj Peter Bhakta.
The 30-year-old Montgomery County resident is running against Democratic incumbent Rep. Allyson Schwartz in Pennsylvania's 13th Congressional District, which sits astride Northeast Philadelphia and the Montco suburbs.
Maybe the word "running" should be in quotes. In political terms, this is a laugher. Bhakta has no money, no visible party support, no new ideas and no chance.
The 13th was redesigned in the 2000 re-apportionment to tilt Republican. Instead, Schwartz, who is a freshman, is the runaway favorite. So it goes.
What Bhakta does bring to the table is celebrityhood, albeit a weak-tea version of it. He appeared on the television show "The Apprentice," in 2004, before being booted off by The Donald in episode seven.
Almost weekly, Raj displays for us the vast difference between being youthful and being juvenile.
Since he got the Republican nomination, Raj has been hamming it up, bringing his flair for self-promotion to bear on a variety of issues. First, he put the spotlight on crime. Now, it is on illegal immigration, though it's more accurate to say that the spotlight is always on Raj. It is the Reality-TV school of politics. In fact, in a exquisite example of life imitating art imitating life, Raj has had a camera crew following him. Their hope is to turn the Raj campaign into a reality TV series. My suggested working title: The Fool.
Given this background, why am I not surprised to see Raj in the news again, this time from the U.S.-Mexican border near Brownsfield, Texas making a point about illegal immigration -- with three elephants in tow, along with a six-piece mariachi band.
Let's pick up an AP dispatch about the stunt:
Bhakta paraded an elephant and the band through the water near the mouth of the Rio Grande along the Texas-Mexico border Tuesday.
"The elephant never made landfall into Mexico, but I tell you something, he could have made 15 laps back and forth, but no one showed up," Bhakta, a Republican, said in yesterday's Brownsville Herald.
Bhakta, who favors construction of a fence along the border, said he was in Brownsville to raise money with friends when he saw a half-dozen men swimming under one of the international bridges "with complete immunity" and decided to pull the stunt.
Circus producer James Plunkett said he had been hired for the photo shoot and had provided three elephants.
Plunkett said his crew had entered the Boca Chica beach area in Texas and remained for about an hour. The Border Patrol alerted the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the elephants were detained and sprayed for ticks, then released, the newspaper reported.

Myself, I wish that Raj had been detained and sprayed for ticks, but there is no justice in life.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Country Club Republican

I've often wondered why the Lynn Swann campaign wasted the spring and most of the summer dithering when it had a wonderful opportunity to make merry over the issue of the legislative pay raise. Let me count the ways I think it could have helped the Republican challenger:
First, Swann's handlers could have used the pay-raise as a fulcrum to position their candidate as an outsider-reformer who would shake Harrisburg out of its politics-as-usual stupor that had so angered voters. Suggested slogan for the campaign: I'm angry as Hell and I won't take it anymore!
Second, it was a stance that would have taken Swann's lemon -- his lack of government and political experience -- and turned it into lemonade. Suggested slogan: A New Broom Sweeps Clean. (It's a bald theft of the Clean Sweep movement's slogan and icon, but what the heck.)
Third, it would cast Gov. Rendell in the role of retrograde -- excuse the expression -- fat cat pol in bed with the forces of evil. He signed the damned payraise bill in exchange for what? More of his pet tax- and- spend programs that's what! Suggested slogan: We don't need a governor who kisses ass. We need a governor who kicks ass. (Swann's machismo aura as a former jock would help here.) It could have positioned Swann early and strongly as The Reform Candidate.
Fourth, it would have played well in the Angry Zone of Pennsylvania -- that vast area west of the Susquehanna River, where go-for-the-throat populism strikes a chord with many voters. That's a voter base which, once you add in the Republican T, would have given Swann some solid ground from which to wage his (admittedly uphill) campaign.
In retrospect, though, I was wrong.
While the idea of running a populist campaign against Rendell was a good one, Swann's the wrong guy to do it. And watching him try is painful.
That's because he's the rich white guy in the race.
Whoops! Strike that. That was Jim Seif's characterization of Swann made before the primary. Seif, campaign manager for Bill Scranton, uttered it on a PCN call-in program and was promptly fired for his observation. As Seif explained to The Inquirer at the time:
"There's no excuse. It was a stupid thing to say," said Seif, who added that the comment was not intended as a racial slur. Seif said he was trying to say that Swann, who portrays himself as a political outsider, was really part of the establishment.

Seif said the wrong words, but he had the right idea. More accurately, Swann is a Country Club Republican -- a wealthy and comfortable member of the establishment. It's quite an accomplishment for an African-American born to parents of modest means, a transmigration made possible by sports.
The country club part came through last night when I watched Rendell and Swann debate on WPVI-TV. Go here for video snippets.
Swann is, in many ways, an ideal TV-age candidate: He is an articulate, handsome man, who looks 10 years younger than his chronological 55. He exudes poise, especially when set beside the rumpled Rendell. In this debate (the last) the governor clearly had the command of facts, but Swann had the commanding presence.
Here is the Inquirer's Amy Worden take on the debate. Here is the PG's story on it.
But Swann simply isn't credible in trying on the mantle of "citizen soldier" ready to take on the Harrisburg establishment. He's not running to burn down the country club. He's running to chair its board of directors.
His views -- as enunciated in the debate and elsewhere -- are a paint-by-the-numbers reiteration of Republican positions dating back, oh, about 100 years. Even when given the opportunity by Rendell to join the anti-gun movement (and maybe attract some urban votes) he declined. Guns don't kill people, Swann said, in so many words. People kill people.
It's pretty weak tea when set beside Rendell's governor-as-activist model. Think of FDR versus Calvin Coolidge. (who, I understand, was a pretty mean golfer.)
This is not meant as a shot at Swann. In politics, above all, you must be true to yourself. Swann's not a ranter. He's not a populist. He's not angry. And he won't pretend to be.
It's obviously too much of a pretzel twist for him to to run against the Republican establishment when he is the candidate of that establishment.
What we get is a vigorous, youthful, commanding candidate with nothing much interesting to say.
And the voters are telling the pollsters they aren't at all impressed.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Place Your Bets

Most of politics, including this blog, is nothing but talk, talk, talk. So let's take a reality check and ask the people who put their money where their mouth is. I'm talking bettors. My colleague Andy Cassel pointed this site out. It's a blog called Econbrowser. Its latest posting shows where bettors are putting their money when it comes to control of the U.S. House and Senate. (To sum up, the money is trending Democratic.) Most of the betting is done on a site called Tradesports, which offers this chart of bets on the U.S. Senate race in PA.

Price for Pennsylvania Senate Race at TradeSports.com

It's not clear enough to see details, but you catch the drift. The statement that goes along with this chart is: Republican Party candidate to win the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania.

Postscript: For more political charts, go to Tradesports, click on politics and use the search engine. This site doesn't use names that much, mostly races. Try Pennsylvania as a search term.

A Rising Tide

With the release of yet another poll showing Ed Rendell with a double-digit lead over Lynn Swann, it may be time to play one of my favorite math games: "What If?"
The latest poll, by the way, is the Allentown Call/Muhlenberg College poll, which shows Rendell with a 21-point lead. That spread is 5 points higher than an August poll by the same group. In that poll, there were 14% undecided. In the latest, there are 9% undecided. To put it another way, Rendell picked up all the undecideds from August.
So, what if Rendell beats Swann on Nov. 7th by 21 points? What would his margin be and what impact would it have on the rest of the Democratic ticket? Does a rising tide lift all boats? Or do modern, savvy voters pick through the ballot, gleefully splitting their tickets?

Let's look back before we look forward. In 2002, Rendell beat his Republican opponent, Mike Fisher, by 9 percentage points or 324,000 votes. The Democrat got 53% to Fisher's 44%. Green Party and Libertarian candidates got a total of 3%.
Go here for a breakdown of the 2002 vote totals by media market.

Now, the question recurs: What if Rendell wins by 20 points. The way I see it, each point will be worth 36,000 or so votes -- I'm assuming here that voter turnout is roughly the same as in 2002. So, the math is :
36,000 x 20 = 720,000 votes.
A win of that dimension would have to have a coattail effect.
Of course, folks will say: It's not possible for Rendell to win by 20 points. The race will tighten. Republicans will come home. Swann will exceed 40 percent of the vote. But ask yourself these two questions:
Do you think Swann will do better or worse than Mike Fisher did in 2002?
Do you think Rendell will do better or worse than he did in 2002?
It is likely that Swann will do worse and likely that Rendell will do better. A 60-40 race is not out of the question, especially since so most public polls are showing the percentage of undecideds in single digits. And, since the electorate seems to be trending anti-Republican, it's likely that a lot of those undecideds will break Democratic.
By the way, most political professionals I talk to can't believe that Rendell could win by 20 points. They predict a victory for the incumbent, but not of that proportion. They put it at the 12- to 16-point range.
But, you've got the numbers. Go and play with them and come up with your own "What If?" scenario.

Friday, October 06, 2006

A Churchillian Moment

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was only half way through his declamation on Islamofascism yesterday (Thurs. 10-06) when a quote from Winston Churchill, nestled somewhere deep within my brain, struggled up to the surface. It was his famous definition of a fanatic -- as someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.
Santorum was visiting the Inquirer's Editorial Board for its endorsement meeting, an on-the-record interview that is a ritual for candidates at election time. Santorum's relationship with the Editorial Board has not been one of mutual warmth and affection, but it was a civil encounter because the board was content mostly to let the senator do the talking.
And talk he did.
Santorum's discourse on the manifold evils of radical Islam was a Reader's Digest version of one he gave earlier at the Harrisburg Press Club. You can find the full text of that speech here.
I won't go into the merits of his argument. There are other blogs for that.
No, the thought that struck wasn't philosophical or theological. It was purely political.
Rick Santorum is running for President of the United States.
And he is running as Winston Churchill.
If he does win re-election on Nov. 7th (a prospect that looks doubtful at this point) he will run as a political wunderkind: A red-meat conservative who survived against all odds in a blue state. If can win in Pennsylvania, imagine what he can do elsewhere? He becomes just what the Republican party needs to lead it out of the wilderness.
If he loses, he runs as a Martyr-Saint of True Conservatism. The man who stood by his principles, spoke the truth as he saw it, and went down to defeat due to a (temporary and regrettable ) triumph of moral and political relativism. He becomes just what the Republican party needs to lead it out of the wilderness.
The analogy to Churchill is not my own, it is the senator's.
As Santorum tells it, this is not 2006 and the United States is not grappling with mere terrorism. This is 1936 and we are facing the rise of Fascism. Why can't we see the clear and present danger? Because we are besotted by the vices and enticements of the modern world. Fat and happy, zonked out on HDTV, too morally and intellectually weak to see the manifest evil of our enemy.
Iran is an example. Europe wants to pretty-please the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad out of developing nuclear weapons. Even President Bush is dithering. In short,
the best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity…
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Why, it's Islamofacism.
(I always wondered what that poem meant.)
It is easy to get swept away in the Santorum cosmology: Good vs. Evil. Islam vs. Christianity. East vs. West. It is also equally easy to hear it in and say: This is f%#*ing nuts!
But that's beside the point.
The point is the political value of these views to Santorum. People who to react to Santorum viscerally (pro or con) tend to forget that he is a wonderfully talented and skilled politician. . He's won two terms in the Senate in a state where, arguably, he is way too conservative for the average voter. He has risen quickly to a leadership position in the Senate, and (if re-elected) he seems destined to go higher. Along with regular discourses on Faith, Life & the American Way, he also delivers the pork to the folks back home. (As yesterday's meeting, he took credit for $800 million of the $1.2 billion Philadelphia has received to redo its public housing.) His political campaigns are models of smart media and brilliant field operations.
In short, Rick Santorum may pray the rosary, but he's also read Machiavelli.
And now he has decided to become Winston Churchill, which is a wonderful thing to be, if he can pull it off. Resolute, fearless and eloquent. What a glorious combination.
Of course, Santorum lacks Churchill's benign public demeanor -- something he shared with his fellow artistocrat, Franklin Roosevelt. The senator can't help but exude arrogance, a trait that is off-putting, but probably beyond remediation. It's hard-wired into his personality.
He also lacks on his current vita an important chapter in Churchill's life -- his years in political exile between the two World Wars, when he was scorned by liberals and conservatives alike as an eccentric liability to any regime in power. The one-word title of second volume of William Manchester's great biography of Churchill tells it all. "Alone."
The thought crossed my mind yesterday, whilst the senator was launching his peroration on Islamofascism, that the likelihood of defeat has crossed his mind. Not to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but to Bob Casey. And that he is preparing himself, psychologically and politically, for the next stage in his life. One that would last, he would hope, not 18 years as Churchill's did, but 18 months.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Full Brenda Lee

What do you do when you are an incumbent congressman, behind in the polls, getting hammered by your opponent over an (admitted) extra-marital affair that includes an allegation (denied) of physical abuse?
You do a full Brenda Lee.

You apologize. You get on your knees (metaphorically, of course) and ask for forgiveness. You sing (ditto on the the metaphor)-- as Brenda did, in her plaintive, tearful voice: I'm Sorry
Or, as Brenda so aptly put it:

I'm sorry) I'm sorry
(So sorry) So sorry
Please accept my apology
But love is blind
And I was to blind to see
Oh, oh, oh, oh
Oh, yes

Oh yes, indeed. This is what U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood did this week, with a mea maxima culpa TV ad that aired in Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional District, which runs along the top of the state on the right-hand side of the Republican "T."

Here is a link to the Sherwood ad.

Sherwood's ad is in direct response to one aired by his Democratic opponent, Chris Carney, called "Father" which directly criticizes the incumbent for his sexual indiscretions. I blogged on this earlier.

This should be one of the safest Republican seats in the country -- it was re-apportioned to be one -- but Sherwood may be the most vulnerable GOP incumbent in the state.

If you parse Sherwood's message, he is posing an interesting question to voters in the 10th: Who do you want in Congress: an admitted philanderer who usually votes your way or a good family man who often won't vote your way?

Or as Brenda would say: Oh, oh, oh, oh,uh-oh...oh, yes

Oh Yeah, Sez Who? Sez Me, That's Who

Ed Rendell and Lynn Swann held their first televised debate last night (Wed. Oct. 5) in Pittsburgh. It was broadcast locally on KDKA-TV, which offers this highlight.
The Post-Gazette story includes audio links to the debate, though (I warn you) they take a while to download.
John Baer's take is that it was a Rendell win, though he gives Swann points for poise and aggressiveness.
Angela Couloumbis has a piece in The Inquirer that extracts what are probably the two best lines of the night:
"Well, Lynn, you'll learn that the people of Pennsylvania don't elect you king," Rendell said, explaining that his property-tax plan is primarily targeted to helping low-income seniors because lawmakers were unwilling to raise other taxes in order to offset more cuts in property-tax bills. "You have to work with the legislature."
"He's always complaining that it's the legislature's fault," Swann said at one point earlier in the debate. At another point, he said: "I believe in the two R's - I believe in reform, and I believe in results. My opponent believes in the two R's as well. He believes in rhetoric, and he believes in Rendell."

To underscore that point, the Swann campaign went up with a new ad yesterday called "Decades" that is a LOL hoot. It's from the shop of John Braebender, who is also Santorum's media guy.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Three Quick Items

It Isn't Easy Being Green
The Supremes have ousted the Green Party's Carl Romanelli from the ballot in the race for the U.S. Senate. It was done in a one-line dismissal of his suit, challenging the state Election Bureau's call that it would take 67,000 voter signatures for the Green candidate to get on the ballot. Here is Jim OToole's take on the ruling. See my earlier post on this, The Romanelli Factor. The bottom line: this is bad news for the Santorum campaign.

Get Out the Popcorn
Coming to the tube tonight, the second debate between Gov. Rendell and challenger Lynn Swann. This one is in Pittsburgh. It will be televised there on KDKA-TV and in the rest of the state on the Pennsylvania Cable Network at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. I have satellite and don't get PCN, so I'm going to have to get someone to tape it for me. Here is an Angela Couloumbis piece on the debate and what it all means.

Bang, Bang, Shoot 'Em Up
So much for the effect of the Lancaster slaughter. The state House yesterday rejected a bill to limit hand gun sales to one a month in Pennsylvania. It was an anonymous straw vote -- one of more than 100 taken on various bills to deal with violence. The vote was 130-63. Here is Catherine Lucey's piece on it. My bet is that if the vote was public -- and legislators had to record where they stood -- this bill would have gotten more than 80 votes. Under cover of anonymity, a lot of the lawmakers voted "No" just to make the issue go away.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Creative Consulting

It isn't often there is a break-through moment in political advertising.
Most of the TV ads have that derivative, I've-seen-this-before feel to them. That's because you have seen them before. The music, the announcers, the graphics, the pacing -- it's all the same work of the same media consultants, who were, in turn, inspired by other media consultants, who were, in turn, inspired by other media consultants, and so on and so forth. There are a few exceptions to this rule -- John Braebender, who is Rick Santorum's media guy -- is one of them.
But, as Fred Allen said, imitation is the sincerest form of television.
So, I have to tip my hat to the Republican National Congressional Committee.
It's recent ad against Lois Murphy takes a unique approach to solving a dilemma that is bedeviling a lot of incumbents facing neophyte opponents this year -- How do you do attack ads against a challenger who has no record? It is tough to get your hooks into them.
(Witness Curt Weldon's early attempt to tag his opponent Joe Sestak as a carpetbagger, which ended up sounding like Weldon was dissing Sestak's daughter, who had brain cancer. Ugh.)

The RNCC, in an ad on behalf of 6th District incumbent Rep. Jim Gerlach, gets past this barrier by leaping over it. It treats Murphy as an incumbent.
In the ad, which went up on cable this weekend, the RNCC accuses Murphy of opposing a bill to provide body armor for American troops in Iraq.
"Hard to believe," the announcer says, as "Source: Vote 669, 12/19/2005" appears on the screen.
You would think from that ad -- and you are meant to think -- that Murphy was in the U.S. House chambers that day, casting that vote. She was not. Murphy has never held public office.
She is running against Gerlach to get into the U.S. House so she can cast votes.
It was a bit much for the Murphy campaign, who complained to Comcast about the ad.
Comcast pulled the ad for "further review." That is TV speak for 'You will never see this ad again." My colleague Todd Mason has the particulars in the case.
One final note: I will bet you, by the time this campaign season is over, what the RNCC will look tame, prim and understated. We are in for a wild ride over the next five weeks.
See my earlier post on this Republican and Democrat congressional committee advertising: Bombs Away

In related news, Carrie Budoff has a a good exegesis on the soft money coming into -- flooding? -- the state, most of it pointed to the Casey-Santorum race.

Postcript added on Friday, Oct. 6: As several commenters have noted I had an attack of dyslexia on the titles of the campaign committees. It is the National Republican Congressional Committee) not the Republican National Congressional Committee.

Postscript 2 added on Friday, Oct. 6: Courtesy of Politics PA a link to the ad in question.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Muted Earth Tones Gambit

The Casey and Santorum campaigns are up with new TV ads.
The Santorum one features the Senator back in an open-collar, earth-tone shirt (It looks like adobe to me, but others are better judges of such things.)
The ad is titled "Bicker" and it features Santorum talking straight into the camera, swearing to folks that he's fightin' for 'em day and night. He also takes a slap at Casey, calling him a "get-along-go-along" kind of guy. In my opinion, the ad may be trying to do too much -- bolster Santorum's image, while knocking down Casey's. Also, I am not privy to Santorum's internal polls, but I don't think there's enough time or money to reverse his image among swing voters. They guy has too much smirk in him to come across as a regular guy.
But, I guess they gotta try. They need to move the numbers for their guy.
Casey has a new ad called "Cards" that features him speaking in front of a crowd of extras, trying to convince them he's got cajones and won't be no stinkin' get-along-go-along guy in Washington.
(I wonder if the campaigns talk to each other about their upcoming ads? These two fit together like bookends.)
To be honest, I don't find Casey convincing as a tough guy and I don't find Santorum convincing as a regular guy (He smiles -- and smiles and smiles -- a lot in Bicker.)
In fact, the best ads done so far by the campaigns don't feature the candidates at all.
See Casey's ad "Behind" and Santorum's over-the-top "Corner Bar".

Sometimes Life Just Sucks II

Drum roll, please. It's time to award our 2nd

Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week Award
U.S. Rep. Don Sherwood
Actually, Sherwood has had a no good, very bad time ever since it was disclosed that (a) he had a mistress in Washington and (b) that she alleged he had tried to choke her one night.
Not a good thing to do. Not a good thing to have disclosed in the family-values, oh-so-very-conservative 10th Congressional district in Northeast Pa, wherein resides your wife and 3 children.
Under normal circumstances, Sherwood would be a shoo-in for re-election, especially since the post-2000 census re-apportionment surgically removed the district's largest city, Scranton, and gave Sherwood a long slice of the Northern tier counties (up to and including Lycoming County.)
In fact, Sherwood race without opposition last time out. This time is different. His opponent is Democrat Chris Carney, who is running a campaign that has made Sherwood's philandering a centerpiece -- witness his slogan: Taking Our Values to Washington, not bringing Washington's values home.
To date, Carney's strategy was to point to Sherwood's affair without mentioning it directly. That indirection ended last week with this Carney TV commercial.
Here's a piece in the Scranton Times about the ad, an AP piece that lays out the basics of the race and another piece that talks about Democrats being happy about Carney's chances.
Meanwhile, President Bush is due in the Lackawanna County later this month to help Sherwood with fundraising, which no doubt needs to counter the Carney attacks.