Pennsylvania voters gave Sen. Bob Casey “OK marks” heading into the 2012 election, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday that suggests the freshman Democrat could be vulnerable.
Just 39 percent of voters polled between Dec. 6 and 13 approved of Casey’s job performance; 29 percent disapproved and 32 percent didn’t know or didn’t answer. His approval rating is down significantly from a high of 56 percent in May 2009.
“Although there is a sense in the political community that Casey will be a strong bet for re-election, his numbers are not overwhelming,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Indeed, many Keystone State Democrats and Republicans think Casey is a strong bet for re-election largely because of the GOP’s weak prospects. A challenger has yet to emerge, and despite major Republican gains in the midterms, the evolving list of potential candidates isn’t particularly frightening for the Casey campaign.
Perhaps that’s why Quinnipiac didn’t test head-to-head matchups, as other pollsters sometimes do in similar situations. Instead, Quinnipiac simply asked voters if they would support Casey “or the Republican candidate” in 2012.
Not surprisingly, the state Democratic Party said the numbers show the incumbent Democrat “is popular and in a strong position for re-election.”
“They support him over a Republican by a wide margin — even in a difficult political environment,” said Mark Nicastre, state party spokesman. “While Republicans struggle to find a serious candidate to challenge Sen. Casey, he has remained focused on creating jobs and cutting taxes for the middle class. This poll shows that Sen. Casey’s work is appreciated by the voters, and it will undoubtedly keep a few more Republicans on the sidelines.”
There’s another thing that may keep more Republicans on the sidelines.
At least two of the stronger politicians rumored to have interest — Reps. Charlie Dent and Jim Gerlach — were recently awarded coveted committee assignments for when the GOP assumes the House majority next session. Gerlach will serve on Ways and Means and Dent will sit on Appropriations — powerful assignments that they may be reluctant to abandon.
Dent’s office sent out a statement last week noting that he is one of only seven Republicans being added to the committee, which will shrink from 60 to 50 Members next year. He is also the first Republican from Pennsylvania to serve on the Committee since the 110th Congress.