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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:

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Romney opens 5-pt Pa lead in PPP poll

Published by Tim McNulty on .

For the first time in any poll -- and out the outset of serious campaigning in Pennsylvania -- Mitt Romney has opened up a 5-point lead in the state over native son Rick Santorum, says Public Policy Polling.

Santorum may note the firm's Democratic tendencies (as he has with other pollsters) but note the pollsters said Romney would win Wisconsin 43-36, and the final tally was 44-37.

From their latest release:

Mitt Romney's taken the lead in PPP's newest poll of Rick Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania. Romney has 42% to 37% for Santorum with Ron Paul at 9% and Newt Gingrich at 6%. The numbers represent a dramatic turnaround from when PPP polled the state a month ago. Romney's gained 17 points, going from 25% to 42%. Meanwhile Santorum's dropped 6 points from 43% to 37%, for an overall swing of 23 points in the last four weeks.

Pennsylvania Republicans are expressing major doubts about Santorum's viability both in the primary and the general election. Only 36% of GOP voters think Santorum has a realistic chance at the nomination to 54% who believe he does not. And when it comes to matching up against Barack Obama in the fall only 24% of Republicans think Santorum would provide their best chance for a victory while 49% think that designation belongs to Romney.

Santorum's favorability numbers haven't really changed from a month ago. He was at 64/30 and now he's at 62/31. But Romney's seen quite a bit of improvement in his image, perhaps reflecting growing acceptance that he will be the nominee. His favorability has improved a net 16 points from +6 (46/40) to +22 (57/35).

Romney's made huge in roads with the groups that have tended to fuel Santorum's success. What was a 37 point lead for Santorum with Evangelicals is now only 10 points at 44-34. What was a 32 point advantage for him with Tea Party voters is now only 6 at 41-35. And in the greatest sign that conservatives are starting to really around Romney a little bit, what was a 51 point deficit for him with 'very conservative' voters is now only 11 points at 44-33.

UPDATE: Rasmussen also sees a tightening race:

A new statewide telephone survey finds that 42% of Likely GOP Primary Voters support Santorum, while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney picks up 38% of the vote. Texas Congressman Ron Paul earns seven percent (7%), and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is at six percent (6%). Two percent (2%) like some other candidate in the race, and five percent (5%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

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Santorum stops in Pgh, pre Easter break

Published by Tim McNulty on .

From the P-G's Amanda King, here's video of Rick Santorum's stop at a Carnegie diner this morning, with lots of shots of the ex-senator's daughter Elizabeth and longtime Santorum pal Keith Schmidt.

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Obama team appeals to Pa base

Published by Tim McNulty on .

Obama's campaign arm expounded on the political memo it released this morning, talking this afternoon with Pa reporters about their short and long term plans for the state. Here's a preview of a writeup I'm doing for tomorrow:

Expect to hear a lot about blue collar jobs, tax breaks for the rich and women and health care when President Barack Obama's reelection campaign in swing-state Pennsylvania kicks off in earnest later this year.

The Democrat's campaign has been in the state for months already -- it expects to open its 20th office statewide by next week -- and is using the de facto kickoff of the GOP presidential primary season to both stir up his base and preview attacks on Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney. The president began the attacks in a speech Tuesday, linking Mr. Romney to a GOP budget plan he called "thinly veiled social Darwinism."

On Wednesday two top Obama campaign aides gave the localized pitch, saying Mr. Romney's past at Bain Capital and his opposition to the $60 billion auto industry bailout put him out of touch with blue-collar Pennsylvania voters. One of the pressure points looks to be Bain's takeover of Kansas City steelmaker GS Industries, which paid dividends to investors before going bankrupt in 2001, costing more than 700 steelworkers their jobs.

"It's been quite clear as a corporate buyout specialist that Romney is comfortable with profiting from companies he bankrupted and outsourcing jobs," said Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt.