Thursday, October 27, 2005

The Sentinel Online : Santorum Looks Weak at the Cumberland/Dauphin Republican Committee Fall Dinner

The Sentinel Online : Local News: "Santorum in for ‘tough’ fight

By John Hilton, October 27, 2005

If Wednesday’s appearance at the Cumberland/Dauphin Republican Committee Fall Dinner is any indication, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., is prepared for the fight of his life.

While never mentioning his probable opponent by name, Santorum acknowledged, “This is going to be a tough one.” Early polls show Santorum is a 15-point underdog to state Treasurer Robert P. Casey, a Democrat, for the 2006 general election — still 13 months away.

Santorum is already in full campaign mode. “I’ve worked and I’ve accomplished,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do. ... This race is going to be the biggest race in the United States of America.”

Barclay sends plane

Wednesday was a work day in the Senate for Santorum, who made five votes on bills that were scheduled at 4:15 p.m. Cumberland County Commissioner Bruce Barclay saved the day by sending his private plane to ferry Santorum to the dinner at the Radisson Penn Harris Hotel and Conference Center.

A 15-minute film prior to Santorum’s remarks fired up the crowd with images of past comeback victories by the senator over U.S. Rep. Doug Walgren, D-18, in 1990 and Sen. Harris Wofford, D-Pa., in 1994.

Santorum, who seeks a third Senate term, wasted no time going after Casey. The two appeared together last week for the first time as candidates at the annual meeting of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. They did not appear side-by-side, but gave separate speeches to the group.

“He says he wants to raise taxes,” Santorum said Wednesday. “I know he’s told us he’s some sort of new Democrat, but that doesn’t sound like a new Democrat to me. He says he wants to increase taxes on the wealthy and we know what he means by ‘the wealthy’ — everybody who pays taxes.”

Speaking in Philadelphia, Casey delivered an economic plan that included more funding for the Small Business Administration and the repeal of tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. He said Washington decision-makers, including Santorum and the Bush administration, are fiscally irresponsible and too focused on ideology rather than the economy.

Santorum said he did not think it made sense to tax small business owners to fund the Small Business Administration.

Casey low-key

Casey has made very few public appearances this summer and surged in the polls. Meanwhile, Santorum’s popularity nosedived after he went on a state speaking tour in support of Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security — an unpopular plan that appears dead.

A Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University poll last week had Santorum, a two-term incumbent, lagging 18 points behind Casey, the son of the popular late governor.

Santorum, the No. 3 Senate Republican, said he has visited every county in Pennsylvania in his 11 years in the Senate and has delivered for the state on issues ranging from farm preservation to poverty. “I have a record of accomplishments that I will match with anyone,” he said.

Accomplishments cited

Barclay cited the senator’s work on the federal transportation bill passed this summer. The $286 billion bill initially made Pennsylvania a “donor state,” getting 97 cents back for every dollar it contributed. Santorum said he filibustered the bill until he got Pennsylvania between $1.13 and $1.19 for every dollar of federal gas tax it collects through 2009."

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