by Chris Bowers, Wed May 31, 2006 at 11:01:53 AM EDT
Last month, Santorum trailed by thirteen percentage points. The incumbent began 2006 down by 20 points and closed to within single digits by March. That was before the Primary Election solidified Casey's position as the Democratic nominee.
Santorum continues to flounder with his base, attracting support from only 67% of GOP voters. Casey now attracts 87% of Democrats, a ten-point gain since our April 20 poll. My repeated assertions that Santorum had basically no chance in this race have resulted in criticisms, both public and private, from a wide variety of Pennsylvania Democrats. Some warn of overconfidence, some warn that progressives will stay home, some warn that Santorum has loads of money, some warn that the Pennsylvania Republican base remains strong, and on and on and on. However, all of those warning and tortured attempts to try and make this race look competitive aside, I think it is time for everyone who is watching this race to look at the numbers and appreciate what is actually happening here. We now have a Republican polling firm showing the race at 56-33in favor of Casey. If an incumbent was leading any campaign 56-33, s/he would be considered safe by every election analyst in the nation. However, that isn't even how bad things are for Santorum. For a challenger to be leading 56-33 is unprecedented. Remember that undecideds tend to break overwhelmingly for the challenger. I have never seen anything like this. Not only is this the best poll for a challenger I have ever seen, nothing else I have ever seen is even remotely close to this. Santorum has a 90% name ID statewide, and only 33% of the state wants to vote for him.
The situation for Pennsylvania Republicans is rapidly collapsing statewide. The residency issue has clearly become a major problem for Santorum. Two weeks ago, in a major conservative stronghold, Democrats won a special election for the Pennsylvania state Senate by 13%. Also on the May 16th primary, Democratic turnout was over 30% higher than Republican turnout.. Rendell has moved form being the primary Republican target among Governors in 2006 to becoming a pretty safe incumbent. Lois Murphy in PA-06, Joe Sestak in PA-07, and Patrick Murphy in PA-08 have all become serious challengers to Republican held congressional seats in districts that Kerry won in 2004. Bush's approval rating in Pennsylvania has sunk to an astounding 28-70.
Pennsylvania is considered a "blue state" in popular electoral parlance, but in truth it has been red for some time. Republicans control both branches of the state legislature, have a 12-7 edge in congressional seats, and have won every full-term US Senate election since 1964. These advantages in ostensibly "blue" Pennsylvania have been absolutely crucial to Republicans maintaining their national governing coalition. However, even as a Republican activist purchases our local papers in Philadelphia, Republican dominance of Pennsylvania politics, fueled in part by longstanding Pennsylvania Democratic incompetence, seems poised to end. If the NRCC has been forced to spend nearly $4M to defend the CA-50, what can they possibly muster to the face of the coming Pennsylvania onslaught?
At the center of the transformation of Pennsylvania politics has been an extremely vibrant, emerging progressive movement statewide. For those of you who still believe that fighting internal Democratic battles is somehow a waste of progressive resources, you need to look no further than to Pennsylvania for counter-evidence. While the newly revitalized progressive movement in Pennsylvania has locked horns with the party establishment, the result has not been drained resources and two separate, warring factions. Instead, the result has been a tremendous upswing in pro-Democratic Party activity in Pennsylvania that has benefited both the new progressive movement and the party establishment. Our new progressive movement is working--the old ways of either simply falling in line behind the party leaders or bolting the party / sitting on your hands were not working. The progressive, internal reform movement has identified hundreds of new activists, resulted in a tremendous fundraising upswing, created new progressive media outlets, started new grassroots organizations, and forged new progressive social networking spaces. This is how you do it. This is how a progressive movement can win back Pennsylvania, and indeed the entire nation.