By Melissa Daniels | PA Independent
HARRISBURG — Polls show the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania has tightened considerably, and finance reports released Monday from the two campaigns show Republican challenger Tom Smith might be in position for a final advertising push.
Incumbent Democrat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey once held a commanding lead in polls, but that has narrowed considerably as Smith, a former coal executive from Armstrong County, is making gains.
A poll from Muhlenberg College and The Morning Call released Monday shows Casey leading with 41 percent, and Smith close behind with 39 percent. The poll was conducted via telephone with 438 likely voters, with a margin of error of 5 percent.
The poll shows Smith’s favorability rating has climbed over the weeks of campaigning, increasing from 18 percent to 29 percent since August. Casey’s popularity swung in the opposite direction, going from 40 percent to 32 percent in the same time frame.
Financial reports filed with the FEC on Monday show Smith now has more cash-on-hand as well.
The GOP challenger raised $1.64 million during the third quarter, which ended Sept. 30. He has more than $7 million in his war chest for the final weeks of the campaign, a total that includes $10 million of his own money.
Casey reported raising nearly $1.52 million during the third quarter and has $5.21 million on-hand.
At the end of June, Casey had $6.2 million on-hand compared to only $2.8 million for Smith.
Should Smith pull ahead by Nov. 6, the race could prove to be a nationwide game-changer. Democrats now control the U.S. Senate with a 53-to-47 majority. A Smith victory alongside toss-ups in other states could upset that balance.
Casey and Smith are scheduled to meet for a debate Oct. 26 in Philadelphia. It will be broadcast Oct. 28.
Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., declined to pick a winner in the presidential election, or try to name his next fellow senator.
But he would say what a growing a number of polls are showing: The races are “very close,” and within the respective margins of error.
“We’ve got just a few weeks left and I think we’ll see very intense campaigning on both sides and I think it’s going to, in the end, it’s going to come down to which side does as a better job of making sure their committed voters get out to the polls,” he said. “I think both those races are too close to call.”
Toomey’s comments follow polls eyeing the presidential race in the battleground state. Meanwhile, the state’s U.S. Senate race is tightening at a steady clip.
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney is trailing President Obama by 4.4 percentage points, according to averages by Real Clear Politics, with the president leading 48 percent to 43.6 percent.
A month ago, the president led by 8.4 percentage points, according to the same set of data tracking.
The next race on the ticket shows a similar clip from the GOP.
The influx of data-crunching is sure to continue. Polling institute Quinnipiac University is expected to release a poll of Pennsylvania voters Tuesday, according to multiple media reports.