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Smith gets Philly tea party nod

Published by Tim McNulty on .

An eastern Pa tea party group -- the Independence Hall Tea Party PAC -- is endorsing Tom Smith in the GOP primary race to take on U.S. Sen. Bob Casey. The group said the former Democrat and coal company owner has an appealing personal story, can gather votes from Democrats and independents, and has the ability to self-fund the race. Smith himself was a tea partier at home in Armstrong County.

The tea party nod follows that of Citizens United, which last week released poll results showing Smith leading the race by 7 points but with nearly 50% undecided.Tom Smith

Smith came in second to GOP opponent and former state Rep. Sam Rohrer in a straw poll last month at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference, and PPP had the same findings in their last survey of Republican voters. A lot of undecideds remain in the under-the-radar race, which also includes veterans advocate David Christian, Harrisburg lawyer Marc Scaringi and Chester County businessman Steve Welch.

Welch -- who won the official party endorsement with help from Gov. Tom Corbett -- has been last in most polls and went on TV last week to raise his profile.

The full statement from the tea party group is after the jump:

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Daily Santorum: Tough talk

Published by Tim McNulty on .

So much for Rick Santorum taking it easy.

The GOP establishment is closing ranks and calling for an end to the presidential primary -- and Santorum has sent mixed messages, as usual, about his intentions -- but a rough new negative ad about Mitt Romney signals he's battling to the end. The ad (above) starts with a picture of Obama and mentions health care reform, support of cap-and-trade and tax increases, then ends with the following line over a picture of Romney: "One more thing: what if I told you the man I'm talking about isn't him, it's him."

How rough is he? He's even taking on the dean of Pennsylvania pollsters and political experts, Terry Madonna of Franklin & Marshall, for having the gall to say his poll numbers are down in his former home state. The WashPost catches up with Santorum's appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday:

“First off, the Democratic hack that does that, Terry Madonna, has probably singularly gotten more polls wrong than any person I know in the history of the state,” Santorum said Sunday. “There are two other polls that are out this week that have us up 20 and I think the other is 17. This is a pollster who just — I think he just draws numbers out of a hat sometimes. We feel very good about Pennsylvania. We’re going to do exceptionally well there.”

So don't you dare say Santorum may lose the Pennsylvania beauty contest in three weeks. Back on Fox again this morning he "absolutely" guaranteed a win in the April 24 primary. (GOP12) And his spokesman reiterated to CNN that they're staying in the race through Tampa. That may be harder to believe if Romney scores a blowout win in Wisconsin tomorrow. He also looks to lose in Maryland and D.C. (where he's not even on the ballot.)

Locals looking to see Santorum in Mars Tuesday or Irwin Wednesday (with U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy) or Altoona can get the details after the jump:

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Out on the Weekend

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Good morning. Catching up from the weekend . . .

In Harrisburg, House Democrats are looking to flip 11 seats this tumultuous year. (Laura Olson)

Democrats may also file suit against the GOP-supported voter ID law. (Drew Singer)

Rick Santorum was elegiac in Wisconsin over the weekend. He's coming back to greater Pittsburgh and giving the national press great datelines with a Tuesday night election party in Mars. (Jim O'Toole)

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl does not support gay marriage and isn't signing on to a Mayors for the Freedom to Marry pledge. Philadelphia's Michael Nutter has endorsed the effort, and locally John Fetterman of Braddock and Adam Forgie of Turtle Creek have signed on too. Ravenstahl faces reelection next year. (Annie Siebert)

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Friday roundup: incumbents in peril

Published by Laura Olson on .

Your Harrisburg reporters were hard at work today wrapping up some stories for this weekend's newspapers, but before we leave you, a little catch-up on the day's political headlines:

- Pennsylvania's congressmen named Tim -- Republican Tim Murphy of Upper St. Clair and Democrat Tim Holden of Schyulkill County -- made The Washington Post's list of incumbents most likely to be defeated in the upcoming primary contests. The paper writes:

Holden was one of few Democrats who survived in a conservative district last election, and Republicans appeared to do him a favor by ... giving him a much more Democratic district in the process. But that new territory also drew new intra-party opposition, and lawyer Matt Cartwright has reportedly put together $600,000 for his primary challenge April 24. 

And of Murphy:

27-year-old former Senate aide Evan Feinberg — has been endorsed by Sens. Rand Paul (Ky.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.). (Feinberg used to work for Paul.) Murphy's campaign, meanwhile, is touting polling that shows him with a massive lead, but the Campaign for Primary Accountability has pledged to spend $200,000 on ads hitting Murphy.

- After Congressman Mark Critz's tele-conference rebuttal yesterday to opponent U.S. Rep. Jason Altmire's latest ad, Critz will be up on TV beginning this evening with a video response, featuring logos of the union and seniors groups that have endorsed him. (Hat-tip to PoliticsPA)

- And closer to home, residents of state Rep. Joe Preston's East Liberty district whose names were forged on his ballot petitions spoke out yesterday. The Allegheny County elections bureau says they've turned over affidavits from people who said they never signed Mr. Preston's petitions to county police for investigation.

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Altmire attacks Critz in new campaign ad

Published by Tracie Mauriello on .

Technically, Congressman Jason Altmire is right: his colleague-turned-political-opponent, Rep. Mark Critz, didn’t vote against last year’s Tea Party budget that would have dismantled Medicare and Social Security.

But what Mr. Altmire’s new attack ad doesn’t say is that Mr. Critz didn’t vote for it, either.  Rather, Mr. Critz – along with all but 16 Democrats – voted “present,” essentially abstaining from the decision.

The “present” votes were part of caucus leadership’s plan to get Republicans to pass an ultra-conservative budget, which had no chance of passing the more liberal Senate, thereby killing another GOP budget proposal that stood a better chance of being enacted. Ultimately, the Tea Party budget failed by a vote of 119 to 136.

“What we were trying to do was choke both these bills,” Mr. Critz said in a conference call with reporters today.

Caucus Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland explained the strategy in a statement this evening. 

"House Democrats stood together and voted 'present' on the extreme ... budget in order to expose its radical policies. Doing this showed the American people just how extreme House Republicans are and how devastating their policies would be for our nation," Mr. Hoyer said. "This was a vote to protect Medicare and derail the Republican budget."

The attack ad is the latest in a rare and increasingly bitter primary between two sitting lawmakers of the same party. Mr. Critz of Johnstown and Mr. Altmire of McCandless are squaring off because newly drawn voting maps put them in the same district.

The Altmire campaign stands by the commercial. Lawmakers should stand firm on the issues, not abstain, the campaign said in a written statement this afternoon.

“The last thing we need are more politicians playing insider games, failing to take a stand and putting partisan politics ahead of protecting seniors’ benefits. If you’re against something, you vote no,” Altmire spokesman Richard Carbo said in a written statement this afternoon.

But Mr. Critz called the ad “completely false” and “exactly what people don’t like about politicians when they misrepresent what the facts are.”

Reps. Bob Brady, D-Philadelphia, and Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., joined Mr. Critz on the conference call to confirm the caucus strategy on the budget vote and to reinforce the Johnstown Democrat’s support of seniors.

“Mark is a stalwart on behalf of older Americans and Medicare and opposing the dismantling of medicare,” said Ms. Schakowski, a leader of the House Task Force on Seniors.

Scroll down to find the commercial posted in an earlier post by Early Returns contributor and Harrisburg bureau chief Laura Olson.