Poll: Casey Opens Up Wide Lead on Santorum in Pennsylvania

Posted April 20, 2005 at 4:59pm

State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr. (D) has opened up a substantial lead over Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in the 2006 Senate race, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

The survey of 1,395 voters, conducted April 13-18, found Casey supported by 49 percent of respondents and Santorum favored by just 35 percent. The poll had a 2.6 percent margin of error.

In a February Quinnipiac poll, Casey, the son of a popular former governor, held a 5-point lead over the two-term Senator.

Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said Santorum’s relatively low numbers in the head-to-head matchup and his approval rating suggest that the Senator is paying a political price for his high profile on the Terri Schiavo case and his advocacy of President Bush’s Social Security reform plan.

By a 55 percent to 37 percent margin, poll respondents said they opposed Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security and 38 percent said they are less likely to vote for Santorum because of his support for Bush’s proposal.

Only 14 percent of Pennsylvania voters were more likely to vote for Santorum because of his role in the Schiavo case, with 34 percent saying they were less likely to vote for him.

“The numbers show clearly that Sen. Santorum has lost ground in his re-election bid over the last two months,” Richards said in a statement. “In short, Santorum has become a more controversial public figure in the past two months and Bob Casey, without doing much of anything to attract headlines, is the beneficiary. But this campaign, which has miles to go and millions to spend, is still in early previews.”
— Josh Kurtz

MINNESOTA
Survey Says: Wetterling Should Run for Senate

Child safety advocate Patty Wetterling said a poll she commissioned confirmed that she should seek the Democratic nomination for the Gopher State’s open Senate seat.

As a political novice, Wetterling ran a tough race in her 6th district bid against Rep. Mark Kennedy (R) last year, and Democrats initially hoped that, with Kennedy giving up his seat to challenge Sen. Mark Dayton (D), she would run again.

But Dayton’s surprise announcement that he will retire at the end of the 109th Congress threw that contest wide open, and Wetterling has been contemplating a Senate bid ever since.

The poll showed that she is perceived very favorably statewide by a 2-to-1 margin, but not in the Republican-leaning 6th district, where only 46 percent of voters have a positive impression of her, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

“I’m not going to run for the 6th district,” the paper quoted her as telling a gathering of local Democrats. “The numbers show me that … I will not win.”

The poll also showed her running ahead of either Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar or attorney Mike Ciresi, both Democrats, in a Senate matchup with Kennedy.

Klobuchar officially launched her Senate campaign over the weekend. Ciresi is still mulling his options.
— Nicole Duran

NEW YORK
Higgins’ Ex-Opponent Announces Retirement

Erie County Comptroller Nancy Naples (R), who came within a hair of winning the open-seat race in the Buffalo-area 27th district last year, announced late Tuesday that she will not seek a fourth term in her county job and is likely to retire from politics.

Although she told the Buffalo News in January that she planned to seek a fourth term this fall, the 56-year-old Republican said that in her mind, her Congressional bid signaled that she would not run for comptroller again.

“I was comfortable with knowing that win or lose, I was prepared to turn the page on this chapter of my life,” Naples said.

Naples lost the 2004 race to replace retiring Rep. Jack Quinn (R) 51 percent to 49 percent to then-state Assemblyman Brian Higgins (D). Ironically, Naples defeated Higgins in her initial run for county comptroller in 1993.

Higgins is considered a favorite for re-election in the Democratic-leaning district — unless the Republican dream candidate, former Buffalo Bills football star Jim Kelly, decides to run.
— J.K.

UTAH
Lawyers Ante Up for Hatch’s Re-election

A group of attorneys raised more than $500,000 on Tuesday for Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R) re-election campaign.

Led by Betty Southard Murphy, a partner with the Washington, D.C., law firm Baker and Hostetler, more than 300 lawyers and other guests, including Vice President Cheney, packed the J.W. Marriott on Tuesday night to raise $536,000 for Utah’s senior Senator.

So far Hatch has drawn one potential Democratic challenger in his bid for a sixth term: Pete Ashdown, who runs the Utah-based Internet service provider XMission, recently said that he would run.
— N.D.

NEW MEXICO
Report: Cheney Will Host Wilson Fundraiser

The vice president will headline a May fundraiser for Rep. Heather Wilson (R), a perennial Democratic target, according to a Web site on politics in the Land of Enchantment.

After initially winning very close races since capturing the seat in a 1998 special election, Wilson had an easier time in 2002 and 2004, winning 55 percent of the vote over then-state Senate President Pro Tem Richard Romero (D).

Romero is now contemplating a bid for mayor of Albuquerque, and Democrats are trying to persuade state Attorney General Patricia Madrid, who is term limited in 2006, to challenge Wilson.
— J.K.