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    Get this party started

    I understand why gays would be excited about ousting Rick Santorum, but this kind of thing (via Michael) is ridiculous:

    New Keystone Poll out in Pennsylvania and the news keeps getting worse for the current GOP number three in the Senate.

    In the same poll in March Senator Santorum trailed by 1 point, in June by 7 points, in September by 13 points, and in the latest (Nov. 2 – 7) Casey leads by a whopping 16 points, 51% – 35%.

    Bottom line, barring a major event that totally reshuffles the national playing field, or a major scandal involving Bob Casey, Santorum will lose in 2006.

    WTF? There’s a year until the next election. A YEAR. (The Malcontent points this out in Boi from Troy’s comments.) Furthermore, let’s remember an important political truth: Pennsylvania is weird.

    Pennsylvania is still one of the most populous states in the union, though its relative population has been sinking like a stone for decades, and–as we’re tediously informed every three seconds in the run-up to a close election–it’s a swing state. There are pockets of hard Democrats in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh (of course) but also on the West End of Allentown, in the college towns, and (I imagine, though I don’t know the place well) in Erie. But there’s also a very high rural population; outside the cities, Pennsylvanians, like upstate New Yorkers, are spread relatively smoothly over the land area. That’s where a lot of the conservatives are.

    Of course, there are plenty of people who don’t vote in both town and country. But local coverage in election years always makes it very plain to people that, taking the commonwealth as a whole, we’re pretty evenly split on a lot of hot-button issues. With that in mind, you also have to factor in the Specter Effect: we already have an influential, moderate, triangulating, peace-making man in the US Senate. I suspect–this is just a hunch on my part–that many people are willing to overlook Santorum’s more extreme pronouncements because they just sent Finger-to-the-Wind Arlen back to Washington a few years ago, too. (Given a chance to replace Specter with my then-congressman, hard-conservative Pat Toomey, PA primary voters said, “No thanks” last go-round. And those were just the Republicans.)

    For voters who lean right/libertarian, deciding between Santorum and Casey isn’t likely to be quite as easy as deciding between Santorum and Harris “let’s resurrect HillaryCare!!!!!” Wofford was ten years ago…or between Santorum and What’s-his-face (Colonel Klink, I want to say?) in 2000. Casey’s website takes the now-de rigueur line: “I’m for curbing government spending unless it goes to subisides for the elderly and mothers who need child care and public schools and small-business owners and…uh, have I missed anyone else who might vote for me?”

    That makes it hard to tell what many of his particular policy proposals are going to be. Given Republican spending practices these days, if he can work the pro-family angle and strike a convincingly patriotic pose in connection with the WOT, he’s unlikely to stand out as a statist. He could very well succeed in portraying Santorum as a freaky extremist by comparison, without making himself look like a milquetoast. Casey’s family name is a well-known Pennsylvania brand, of course, and it’s not hard to imagine his adding enough votes from moderate Republicans and Independents to those from his expected Democratic base to unseat Santorum. The idea that Santorum is already finished, though, is highly suspect.

    Added later: Eric (also a Pennsylvanian) writes about Santorum’s “scheduling conflict” with President Bush’s visit to Scranton. He also characterizes himself this way:

    I’m so used to being cynical and disappointed that I barely noticed, and I think it just goes with the turf of being a libertarian Republican. I just voted for the Republicans on Tuesday, and all that entitles me to is to have the label of “RINO” thrown at me by “real conservatives,” and “conservative” thrown at me by liberals. If I registered and voted Democrat with my views, I’d be equally (if not more) suspect.

    I downloaded and filled out the absentee ballot form, then decided not to vote. All the Pennsylvania seats this time around were low-level or local, and as someone who doesn’t actually live at home, I didn’t feel right sticking Lehigh County with, like, a vice-deputy-assistant commissioner that I was never going to have to deal with. But that’s neither here nor there. The point I wanted to make is that this coming senatorial election is probably going to be utterly excruciating for those of us who are sick to death of being told we’re not “real” members of a group whose label we never adopted to begin with. With Santorum and Casey looking like the candidates, there’s room for endless please-make-it-stop finger-pointing over who’s a RINO or DINO or covert totalitarian or closet socialist, all based on, say, the fact that one candidate favors ten or so million more dollars in federal layouts for prozac for senior citizens. Even from the opposite hemisphere, I am not looking forward to this.

    4 Responses to “Get this party started”

    1. Aron says:

      I’m sure, Sean, it will come as no surprise to you that I consider Santorum to be one of the more odious Senators, and am very pleased at the thought that of his possible departure.

      Has he managed to establish a credible in-state residency yet?

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      But Aron, that was for the children. It’s always okay if it’s for the children.

      I’ll be very interested to see what Casey offers. Joseph Hoeffel, the null set who ran for the Dems against Specter last year, will not be a hard act to follow, certainly. A lot will depend on how Santorum pitches himself. I don’t think his hissy over the Bush administration when Bush was in PA a few days ago is going to do him many favors, but voters could forget all about that within a year.

    3. Eric Scheie says:

      “Pennsylvania is weird.” Three truer words have not been spoken. But Santorum seems to equate weirdness with stupidity.

      On Friday (Veterans Day, when politicians seem to love such things), Santorum raised the ante from a “scheduling conflict” to a full-blown assault on Bush for insufficiently strong language. This was at the same time, same state, as Bush’s controversial speech, and was attributed to another scheduling conflict.

      Santorum has my sympathy, as it must be tough facing a pro-life Democrat. But if he runs to the right of himself and Casey holds the center, I’m not sure there are enough Toomey-style voters to carry it for him.

      If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost swear that Santorum wants to be running against an incumbent. Not that there’s anything wrong with an anti-incumbent strategy, mind you. But isn’t Santorum overlooking something?

    4. Running against an incumbent is tricky business!

      Two heads are better than one. It took Sean Kinsell to make me finally figure out Senator Rick Santorum’s reelection strategy. After trying without much success to make sense out of his strategy, I’ve finally concluded that he’s running an…

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