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NRO: Romney has a Pa path in Toomey

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Awesome Pennsylvania politics story today from Robert Costa at The National Review showing why Mitt Romney has a chance to deliver the knockout to Rick Santorum (the populous Philly collar counties should beat Santorum's vote to the west), and why Santorum's message is out of step with the state's GOP electorate.

On Romney's edge in Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery counties:

Three Republican congressmen with flinty, independent personalities — Mike Fitzpatrick, Pat Meehan, and Jim Gerlach — represent districts in this critical slice of the Keystone State. While Santorum has the support of a few House members elsewhere in Pennsylvania, Romney’s identification with this southeastern trio, in terms of his politics and sensibility, will be a bigger factor.

During the 2010 midterms, over 300,000 Republicans voted in the aforementioned three counties. In the scattered bucolic outposts that constitute Santorum Country, it was not unusual to see GOP turnout hover around 15,000 per county. Greater Pittsburgh saw over 200,000 Republicans show up, but even that metropolitan area was dwarfed by the Philadelphia suburbs, which remain the principal battleground.

On why Pat Toomey -- not 2004 Arlen Specter supporter Santorum -- is the real face of the state's GOP:

Toomey, now a senator, is a prime example of the kind of conservative that is now a winner in the Pennsylvania GOP. He is a former business owner, a fiscal hawk, and a social conservative, but he doesn’t lead with the latter. He is connected with tea-party groups, but his Wall Street ties, supply-side economic politics, and soft-spoken nature make him more than an anti-establishment outsider. Toomey 2012 has more in common with Romney 2012 than with Toomey 2004, the unsuccessful Senate challenger.

When Toomey won his Senate seat in 2010, he concentrated heavily on the economy. Toomey has working-class, Catholic roots but he did not emphasize his biography. He ran against Washington, but not necessarily against the Republican establishment.  To win in Pennsylvania, he told me at a Lancaster, Pa., greasy spoon, you need to win across the suburban spectrum, not only within your base. “Those voters are not ideological; they’re practical,” he said. “They know that you can’t borrow and spend your way to prosperity.”

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Mustio, Raja keep attacking

Published by Administrator on .

From Kaitlynn Riely:

The attack ads began early on in the GOP state Senate primary race between Mark Mustio and D. Raja, and on Thursday, the two candidates went negative in person.

Mr. Mustio, Mr. Raja and Sue Means, all Republican candidates running for the 37th state Senate seat held by state Sen. John Pippy, R-Moon, met Thursday afternoon with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board writers.

They spent most of the meeting discussing their positions on issues including education, transportation and property assessments, but the conversation turned heated when a question came up about negative ads in the race.

Early Returns has already noted the negative tone of the race, which involves only Republicans. In response to the question about negative campaigning Thursday, Mr. Raja pulled from his folder a flier that has been mailed to voters by Mr. Mustio's campaign. The flier claims that Mr. Raja's company plans to increase jobs from 85 to 250 at his "$36 million state-of-the-art facility in India."
Mr. Raja, who is the former CEO and current board chairman of a Scott-based technology company, said the flyer was incorrect about the facility detail, and that the $36 million figure refers to revenues.

"This is just flat-out lies. And I think this is politics," Mr. Raja said.

During the meeting, Mr. Mustio, who is currently in his fifth term in the state House of Representatives, representing the 44th District, said the mailer spoke for itself. Later, his campaign sent a statement to the Post-Gazette saying there was no intent to mislead voters and that the $36 million figure refers to the size of the company.

Mr. Mustio said in the meeting that the Raja campaign has also been spreading misleading fliers, including one that he said incorrectly claims he supported certain amendments that opposed privatization of state liquor stores.

Ms. Means has stated in the past she intends to stay above the fray and did so for the most part Thursday.

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Feinberg spreads the word

Published by Tim McNulty on .

feinbergs

Will anti-incumbency fervor hit Pittsburgh's South Hills? Tim Murphy's Republican challenger Evan Feinberg spent this afternoon -- as he does almost every day -- in the 18th congressional district trying to stoke the fire.

Feinberg, joined by his wife Sarah, a Marine Corps vet, and 10-month-old son Luke (above), did one last round of door-knocking today in his old neighborhood in Peters before shutting things down for the Easter weekend. (The devout Christian had a religious awakening at age 18 while a freshman at the University of Michigan, converted from Judaism and transferred to Grove City College -- "the faith and freedom college," as he called it.)

The former staffer for the Heritage Foundation and for U.S. Senators Tom Coburn and Rand Paul had an easy way around the tidy neighborhood of two-story homes. "We love the Heritage Foundation," said one of Feinberg's former next-door neighbors, unbidden, after a talk about the time his older sister got stuck on a swingset. The 18th District was ahead of the GOP curve in the 2004 primary, voting for Pat Toomey over Arlen Specter, repeated its vote for Toomey six years later, and supported the GOP for president in 2000, 2004 and 2008. So Feinberg's pitch standing outside screen doors this primary season is not about Obama, but rather his fellow Republican Murphy, who the challenger says is too moderate for the dependably red district, and is more concerned with winning a sixth term than sticking to conservative principles on low government spending and taxes.

The 28 year old quoted Coburn: "The biggest problem in Washington is politicians who put their next election before the next generation."

His message has attracted $200,000 in outside advertising support from the anti-incumbent group Campaign For Primary Accountability (which is also taking on Democratic incumbent Tim Holden) and an endorsement from the grassroots tea party group FreedomWorks. Pre-primary finance reports due next week will surely show a giant financial advantage for Murphy however, and the Upper St. Clair incumbent is already on air with a conservative-friendly ad attacking Obamacare. He has not yet faced off publicly against Feinberg, but at his campaign kickoff warned Republicans against eating their own: "There's a lot of people in this country who are frustrated. We're all frustrated. Some are very angry. What we cannot do is take out that anger out on ourselves," Murphy said Jan. 26. ". . . We're going to have to work together and not be divisive."

Feinberg says he'll too be on TV sometime before the April 24 primary, and has an on-message retort to Murphy's financial advantage: "With 61% of his earmarks going directly to campaign contributors, it's easy to raise that kind of money," he said, referring to this OpenSecrets study of 2010 House spending.

There are serious questions about whether someone as far right as Feinberg -- who would cut scads of federal departments, adopt a flat tax and even gold and silver currency -- could prevail in the general election, and Democrats are gleefully watching Murphy's primary test unfurl. (Washington County commissioner Larry Maggi, a pro-gun/anti-health care reform Democrat, is unopposed for his party's nod.) That's where Feinberg points to the GOP voting statistics, saying he's unconcerned.

He gave up his job with Rand Paul analyzing health care to move back to the district and take on Murphy full-time, attacking the incumbent door-to-door with evangelic zeal and walking off 15 pounds in the process. It's an uphill battle, particularly without Murphy's financial cover, but he says he has no second thoughts.

"I was very happy being a policy staffer moving the ball forward on Medicare reform," he said walking up another set of steps. "But the long and short of it is, the biggest problem right now is there are plenty of us willing to be courageous and bold, but there are too many Republicans working against what conservative Republicans are trying to accomplish."

Photo: McNulty iPhone

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Daily Santorum: A weekend off

Published by Tim McNulty on .

The Rick Santorum camp is taking the Easter weekend off, so Daily Santorum doing the same thing. They're committed to running hard the last two weeks before the Pa primary April 24, and released this note to push back on any whispers (tied to poll results perhaps?) that his presidential run is ending:

Verona, PA - Following the Easter Holiday, Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum will resume his public campaign schedule Monday, April 9 in Pennsylvania. Santorum will continue to campaign throughout Pennsylvania with a full-calendar of events beginning on April 9th in the lead up to the Pennsylvania Primary.

PS, we're finding that a lot of Pa politicians are taking the weekend off, mostly starting Friday. That's not only Good Friday but the start of Passover, so it's probably counterproductive to be out pestering voters anyway.

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GOP Senate candidates still battling

Published by Tim McNulty on .

The five Republicans battling to take on U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in the fall are still battling among themselves over their past records -- two leading candidates are former Democrats (a no-no during purity test primary season), and another (poll leader Sam Rohrer) voted in favor of an unpopular legislative pay raise that has long dogged candidates.

From Chris Brennan at the Philly Daily News:

"It's true I was a Democrat, but I was conservative, so I really wasn't a Democrat," Smith explained, adding that he chaired a county tea party organization.

Welch, who voted for President Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary election, said he had gone to "painstaking lengths" to be clear about his political history. He renounced his support of Obama, while noting that Smith raised taxes during his time as a township supervisor and accusing him of trying to hide his political history.

Bucks County businessman David Christian joined the fray by noting that a company Welch owned had sought a $600,000 state loan while Gov. Ed Rendell was in office.

Welch brushed off the claim, saying that an employee had applied for the loan but that the company never followed through.

Former State Rep. Sam Rohrer of Berks County, who served nine terms before running for governor against Corbett in the 2010 primary election, said the April 24 primary was about who would "bear the conservative standard" against Casey.

Smith shot back, noting that he had supported Rohrer with campaign contributions.

"I'm glad you thought enough of me before I became a Republican to cash my check," Smith said, drawing laughs from the crowd.

Smith pressed forward on an issue that dogged Rohrer in his bid for governor: his 2005 vote for a legislative pay raise.

Democrats of course are eating up the infighting (instead of having to worry about their own) so sent along the video below of Welch pressing Smith on his past votes for Democratic candidates. Smith says he can't remember, and asks Welch what he had for breakfast 3 weeks ago: