Quinnipiac University polling unveiled some troubling numbers for President Obama in Pennsylvania on Monday. The state, which is perpetually referred to as a swing state despite not having given its electoral votes to a Republican since George H.W. Bush in 1988, could make history in 2012.
A majority of respondents (52%) did not believe President Obama deserves to be reelected. Only 42% of respondents believed he deserves a second term. These numbers should be a warning sign for the President, who carried the state by over 10% in 2008 against John McCain.
It did not take long for Pennsylvania to sour on Obama following his inauguration in 2009. In a state that is renowned by pro-life advocates nationwide for its pro-life history and strong legislative record, President Obama’s ardent pro-abortion policies did not sit well. By November 2010, the tides had turned on the President and he became a huge liability to Democrats running in the Keystone State. Formerly pro-life Democrats like Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, Rep. Chris Carney and Rep. Paul Kanjorski were decisively ousted after voting for the President’s pro-abortion healthcare law.
In 2010, Pennsylvania elected a pro-life Republican Senator and five new pro-life Republican Congressmen. On the state level, Pennsylvania elected a pro-life Republican Governor and gave Republicans majorities in both houses of the PA General Assembly.
President Obama and his policies may be vastly unpopular in the Keystone State but when put up against the current crop of Republican presidential candidates, Obama appears to be in a statistical dead heat. Republican front-runner Mitt Romney bests Obama by just 2 percentage points. (44%-42%.) Pennsylvania native Rick Santorum falls just behind the President, earning 43% of the vote compared to Obama’s 45%.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is expected to jump into the race this month, trails Obama by 6 points. Perry’s showing is noteworthy considering he is not even an announced candidate and does not share the luxury of high name recognition in the state like Romney or Santorum. Michele Bachmann, on the other hand, who has had her fair share of media coverage, loses to President Obama by 8 points.
Working in President Obama’s favor is that he will share the Democratic ticket with the state’s most popular Democrat, Senator Bob Casey, Jr. In the same Quinnipiac poll, respondents believed Casey deserved a second term by a 47-33 margin.
Casey, who cruised to an easy victory over incumbent Senator Rick Santorum in 2006, possesses political gold in his last name. His father, the late Governor Bob Casey, gained national attention when he was barred from speaking at the Democratic National Convention due to his pro-life convictions and after signing pro-life legislation that was challenged by Planned Parenthood and resulted in the landmark Supreme Court case Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.
His son, Senator Casey, has hardly followed his father’s example. In his first Senate term, Casey’s record has been mixed. In 17 votes scored by the National Right to Life Committee, Casey voted pro-life just 7 times. For example, Casey cast votes to provide health coverage for unborn children under SCHIP and against embryonic stem cell research. However, he also supported the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law, funding for Planned Parenthood, taxpayer funding for overseas pro-abortion groups and the DISCLOSE Act, which sought to restrict the speech of grassroots organizations like right to life groups. Casey also voted to confirm pro-abortion Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Senator Casey’s self-described pro-life position is a stretch at best.
Pennsylvania Republicans have had a difficult time finding a candidate to challenge Senator Casey. Many political pundits believe the PA GOP put forth their best players in 2010, leaving an empty bench for 2012. Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason believes regardless of whom the PA GOP puts up against Casey, they will be successful due to Obama’s unpopularity in the state. “When the president goes down, Bob Casey is going to go down,” Gleason told reporters during a conference call. Citing electoral success in last year’s midterm elections, Gleason noted, “There clearly is a Republican trend in Pennsylvania.”
Thus far, Lieutenant Governor Jim Cawley, former Governor Tom Ridge, former Governor Mark Schweiker, Rep. Tim Murphy, Rep. Charlie Dent, Rep. Jim Gerlach, Rep. Bill Shuster, State Senator Jake Corman and State Senator Kim Ward have all ruled out bids. The only official candidate in the race is former Santorum aide Marc Scaringi, who holds a pro-life position. Veteran and Philadelphia businessman David Christian has formed an exploratory committee and Tea Party activist Laureen Cummings is also mulling a bid.
Despite current Republican candidate shortcomings, Democrats will be in a tricky position trying to juggle Casey’s popularity with Obama’s unpopularity. Will Democrats use Casey to boost Obama in Pennsylvania or will Casey avoid the President completely on the campaign trail in order to avoid being dragged down with him? One thing is clear: Pennsylvania is a keystone of President Obama’s reelection campaign. (Yes, pun intended.) Without Pennsylvania, Obama will not have a second term.