I personally could care less what any of these polls say. PA is going to be hotly contested and anyone out there who found comfort in the polls where Casey was shown to be way ahead is fooling themselves. Underestimating Santorum and the Republicans is suicide.
Finally, Pennsylvanians hate Bush's SS reform. While by a 50-40 margin they approve of diverting some money into private accounts, when asked "do you approve or disapprove of the way George W. Bush is handling the Social Security issue?", they said:
- First off take all this with a grain of salt: the results were not adjusted for turnout. If you'll flip to page 16, only 20% of the sample was Philadelphia or SE PA. 33% of 2004 voters were from the region, and it's a highly Dem region. (I have confirmed that no adjustment was made, because it's too early to predict 2006 turnout models.)
- Santorum over Casey 44-43 in h2h. Not nearly as favorable as other polls, which generally had Casey up 6-7 points (see previous diaries of mine), but Keystone's always not that accurate (was off by 6 points in Specter-Toomey with a week to go).
- Rendell's trouncing all his relative unknown opponents, but his internals (job approval, favorability) are not in a safe zone. Santorum's are comparable with Specter's at this point in his last reelection cycle.5% Strongly APPROVE
16% Somewhat APPROVE
12% Somewhat DISapprove
44% Strongly DISapprove
13% Do not know
That's why I really can't believe that the PA Dems are trying to anoint Bob Casey Jr. as the challenger to Santorum.
By avoiding contention within the party, the Dems are really losing a golden opportunity for some relatively cheap publicity. Even if the news seemed contentious it would keep the contenders names and faces in people's minds and conversations. It was noted in the Kos diary that though all the news surrounding Santorum is negative, at least on an issue-to-issue basis, his approval ratings remain pretty high. This shouldn't surprise anyone- very few people make the connections between issues affecting them and political figures, especially on very complex, abstract, or ambiguously political issues. This means that we must use any and every opportunity to get our candidates into the news, and a primary will do just that.
Also, if we were able to agree from the outset what the arguments would be and which differences between the candidates that would be emphasized by each campaign than we could seriously push the frames that will help us win. For example- I'm trying to push Anthony Zinni as a candidate. Why? Because I want the argument to be about how to reverse the weakness and insecurity that the Republicans are bringing to our nation. If we could get the candidates to argue over how to reverse this trend then our frame is promoted no matter who wins (unless one of the candidates is stupid enough to say that the President was right- cough-Joe Biden-cough).
Besides getting our candidates into the media, we're going to have to run an incredibly strong ground game, I would say much stronger than the Presidential election, since that got way more attention than this election could hope for, amongst other reasons. We are going to have to motivate residents of every community in the state to get out there, talk to their friends, and work to make sure that we defeat Santorum. Does it really seem that wise to have a bunch of politicians in Harrisburg decide for us who we will connect and identify with, or who will best be able to motivate Pennsylvanians to take ownership of this race?
I can't think of a worse strategy than the one the Dems are currently employing in Pennsylvania. Hopefully the party, and maybe more importantly the party's financial backers, will look at these numbers, realize that their course of action is in err and make the necessary changes to insure a Dem victory in '06. Maybe a lightbulb will go off in Rendell's head and he'll realize "hey- bringing in outside candidates like Chuck Pennachio, and reaching out to potential candidates like Anthony Zinni would be great strategic moves for Democrats in the '06 races." More than likely they'll be blinded by their own confidence and their personal/political/business ties to each other. Which is why it's up to us in the activist and blogger world to make sure that we make this primary competitive- victory depends upon it.