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PA: Smith makes final pitch to voters, aims to finish upset campaign

By   /   November 5, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Eric Boehm | PA Independent

HARRISBURG — Tom Smith made his final pitch to Pennsylvania voters during a barnstorming trip across the state Monday.

Tuesday, the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate hopes to unseat Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and finish off an upset campaign that saw Smith rise from relative obscurity to win the Republican nomination and — maybe — unseat a prince of Pennsylvania politics.

Tom Smith and Bob Casey made their final pitches to voters on Monday

Smith, between bigger campaign stops in Scranton and Pittsburgh, made a brief visit in this Harrisburg suburb Monday afternoon to deliver his message to a small gathering of supporters.

We have a nice race on our hands,” Smith said. “You have worked very hard, and I’m asking you to keep doing that until we push this across the finish line.”

Smith, a 65-year old former coal executive, is on pace to outspend Casey nearly 2-to-1 in the campaign, including more than $16 million of his own fortune.

Monday, he said Casey’s record does not warrant a second term in office, highlighting the incumbent’s votes in favor of the stimulus bill, raising the debt ceiling on seven occasions and supporting the infamous “Cash For Clunkers,” a 2009 initiative that provided taxpayer-funded vouchers to people who traded in old cars for more fuel-efficient models.

But, Smith noted with a smile, that last vote did have some positive benefits. “It took a lot of the Obama bumper stickers off the highway.”

If elected, Smith has promised to vote to repeal Obamacare and to limit the regulatory role of the Environmental Protection Agency, which, he says, has had a negative effect on manufacturing and mining in states such as Pennsylvania.

In a statement after Smith’s campaign event, Casey’s team attacked the challenger’s plans to reform Medicare and privatize Social Security.

“Bob Casey is poised for victory, as he has a strong lead in the polls and Pennsylvanians are rejecting Tea Party Tom Smith’s extreme policies,” said Brittani Haywood, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

Casey spent the final full day of the campaign on the trail as well, with rallies scheduled in Pittsburgh and Scranton with former President Bill Clinton.

He also stopped briefly in Harrisburg to visit volunteers at a phone bank Tuesday evening.

Casey, 52, is the son of former Pennsylvania Gov. Bob Casey.

At Smith’s rally, Shawn Graci, a 60-year old retired teacher from Hampton Township, said she believed momentum was on Smith’s side in the final day of the race.

“The most important thing is getting people out there to vote,” she said.

Smith trailed by double digits in most polls until the month before the election. Recent polls have shown the race a toss-up, though Casey has maintained a slim lead in most.

Dave Freed, the Republican candidate for attorney general, also spoke at the small rally Tuesday afternoon, hoping to capitalize on a series of campaign stops with Smith on the final day of his battle with Democratic nominee Kathleen Kane.

Freed, the District Attorney for Cumberland County, said outside spending has played a big role in his race and pointed specifically to a $600,000 ad buy made by a super PAC controlled by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The ad attacks Freed for being endorsed by the NRA and said Kane would push for tougher gun laws in Pennsylvania.

Freed said Monday he was still confident.

We’re going to get it done on Tuesday, and we’re going to tell them that Pennsylvania’s a red state,” Freed said.

Kane, a former assistant attorney general from Lackawanna County, led 46 percent to 37 percent in the most recent poll, conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research and released Saturday.

The poll included 800 likely voters and had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Ten percent of those surveyed who planned to vote for Romney said they would cross the ticket to vote for Kane, the Democrat.

Both Freed and Kane have promised to review the attorney general office’s handling of the investigation into Jerry Sandusky’s sexual crimes at Penn State University, though Kane has made the issue a central part of her campaign.

She would be the first woman and the first Democrat elected to be Pennsylvania’s top cop since the position became an elected one in 1980, and she has spun that to her advantage by promising to be independent of the Republican establishment that controls state government.

Freed has stressed his experience — seven years as a district attorney — compared to Kane, who never rose above assistant district attorney before she resigned in 2007 to help in Hillary Clinton’s bid for president.

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Contact Boehm at [email protected] and follow @PAIndpenedent for breaking news