Dems Slam Toohil Over Video With $100K Ad (Watch Video)

Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) has gone from being a safe incumbent to a top target in two weeks. The House Democratic Campaign Committee will air this ad about Toohil’s recent embarrassing online video scandal to the tune of $100,000.

Capitolwire first reported the ad buy Wednesday evening. It’s running on network TV in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.

Update: Capitolwire also learned that the money was raised by former Rep. Todd Eachus, the man Toohil defeated in 2010, specifically for this ad.

“Tarah Toohil promised conservative values and said we deserved better. Instead we got a drug video, foreign junkets and staged apologies,” says a narrator. Then he pivots to the Dems’ main hit.

“Now Toohil wants children to learn from her example. But Toohil slashed $19 million dollars from Luzerne County schools.”

PoliticsPA obtained the ad from a Democratic operative in Luzerne County.

On paper in early 2011, Toohil might have looked like a prime target. A Republican who rode the 2010 tidal wave, she defeated Majority Leader Eachus in a Democratic district. But oddly, the race had been a sleeper – until this month.

An embarrassing video surfaced showing photos of her with drug paraphernalia and more, and it’s gone downhill from there. She’s had a bad headline – about questionable funding of a trip overseas, her relationship with another state Rep., etc – nearly every day. All of which is referenced in the ad.

Her Democratic challenger is Ransom Young, a farmer who served for 28 years as a Butler Township Supervisor. He’s kept on the attack.

PoliticsPA is seeking comment from Toohil.

Rubio Coming Back to Delco

For the first time since the GOP primary, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is coming to Pa. He’ll rally for Mitt Romney in Delaware County.

He’ll be at Heritage Ballrooms in Holmes, near the airport. Doors open at 5:30.

Rubio is one of the top GOP surrogates in the nation. He appeared with Romney at Mustang Expediting in Exton back in April.

News of his visit relieved many campaign reporters, who feared Pa.’s newfound battleground status had been deflated by a planned visit by Tagg Romney to Harrisburg. He’ll be at the Bass Pro Shop in Harrisburg along with Chris Cox, Executive Director of the NRA/ILA, and Rob Keck, the famous TV sportsman. Details on that event are here.

Also, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson is coming to Pa. Thursday for three events with Senate hopeful Tom Smith.

PA-12: #1 in Outside House Spending

Pennsylvania’s most competitive Congressional race is now the country’s leader in outside spending for House races.

According to a report by the Sunlight Foundation, approximately $9.7 million has been poured into the race, with GOP PACs and interest groups contributing the most.

Leading the way in outside spending is the Grover Norquist led group Americans for Tax Reform. With spending opposing Incumbent Congressman Mark Critz ($1.5 million) and supporting GOP hopeful Keith Rothfus, they’ve spent $2.5 million in the race. Combined with the NRCC, which splurged $2.3 million to oppose Critz, the conservative groups have poured in approximately $4.8 million. 

On the Democratic side, DCCC has paid a hefty sum in the race, dumping $1.8 million to oppose Rothfus. House Majority PAC ($460k) and the AFSCME/AFL-CIO ($360k) have also ponied up on behalf of Critz to oppose Rothfus.

Heavy GOP spending in PA-12 should come as no surprise. PA-12 has been viewed as a golden goose for the GOP ever since redistricting. However, the district is equally as important for the Democrats if they have any hope of gaining seats in the House nationally.

In Closing Ads, McNally & Teplitz Play to Base (Watch Videos)

In the competitive race for state Senate in Harrisburg, both candidates have given up on winning over the other side and are focusing on rallying the base.

In his final TV ad, John McNally accuses Democrat Rob Teplitz of supporting a commuter tax for Harrisburg  Teplitz slams McNally over abortion, saying the Republican opposes it even in cases of rape and incest.

Straight out of the Teplitz family Christmas card

“Teplitz supports a new commuter tax that would raise taxes on suburban residents to bail out the city politicians,” says an announcer in McNally’s ad. “Say that again? Raise suburban residents’ taxes to bail out city politicians who destroyed Harrisburg?”

It’s a clear play at the people outside of Harrisburg, who comprise a solid majority of voters. Harrisburg City’s debt crisis has been an all-encompassing mess, and McNally has run several mailers in addition to the ads that seek to link Teplitz to the morass.

In the April Patriot-News article the ad cites, it’s reported that Teplitz, “Said he would push to have a commuter tax put back on the table as a part of helping Harrisburg through its debt crisis.”

During a debate earlier this month, McNally said he’d represent both sides of the crisis in the legislature. But City-bashing is an effective way to rally votes in the home stretch.

Teplitz says he “does not want to see” a commuter tax, but that the option should be left on the table as a negotiating tool.

Teplitz also plays to his base – in this case, social liberals – by slamming McNally’s pro-life stance as well as now-familiar accusations that McNally supports budget cuts.

“I support a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions,” says Teplitz, straight to camera. “My opponent wants to make abortion illegal, even in cases of rape and incest.”

“No one will work harder to protect women’s health and strengthen our schools [than me.]”

Teplit scored points on this issue as well during their debate – but SD-15 isn’t exactly a liberal district, and it’s an interesting play to talk about abortion for 10 seconds of an ad.

It’s an accurate representation of McNally’s abortion stance.

Both are on TV heavily, with ads in regular rotation in the Harrisburg broadcast market. They are vying to replace outgoing Sen. Jeff Piccola (R-Dauphin).

Here’s Teplitz’s ad:

Sen. Johnson to Rally for Smith

Wealthy businessman and political neophyte takes on well known incumbent Democratic Senator – and wins. It’s the story of Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010, and one Tom Smith hopes to emulate in 2012.

He’ll have Johnson’s help. The freshman Wisconsin Senator is coming to York, Pa. Thursday at 2:30pm to rally with Smith at the County GOP victory center.

Update: Johnson will be in town for 3 rallies. Here are the details:

1:30 p.m. - Lancaster County Victory Center
902 Columbia Ave.
Lancaster, PA 1760
2:30 p.m. – York County Victory Center Rally
2453 Kingston Court – Suite 101
York, PA 17402
8:00 p.m. – Westmoreland Rally
Sloan Elementary School – Gymnasium
4121 Sardis Road
Murrysville, PA 15668

Smith has cited Johnson as a role model, should he win his race.

The image above is from this Johnson commercial, one of the great ads of 2010:

Marino Tweets, Then Deletes, Inartful Sandy Message

Rep. Tom Marino

As Pa. cleans up from Hurricane Sandy, Rep. Tom Marino’s office is cleaning up a social media account.

The Lycoming County Republican tweeted – then immediately deleted – an inartful message to constituents about the storm.

“Happy Halloween and Happy Belated Monday to all of you lucky stiffs who haven’t been to work yet this week.”

The message was visible for about an hour Wednesday morning and then deleted. His account then tweeted:

“I apologize for the previous tweet and any messages people may have received. My account was improperly accessed.”

It looks like a staffer intended to post to a personal facebook page, but instead posted to Marino’s official facebook page which is linked to his twitter account.

How am I so sure? Full disclosure: I was the staffer who accidentally tweeted “<3 @JoeSestak” from Sen. Arlen Specter’s twitter account.

Update: Marino’s office says it is trying to track down how the tweet was sent. A spokeswoman said it wasn’t the Congressman or a current staffer but was probably a former staffer whose account was still linked. No foul play is suspected and Marino has since changed his Twitter password.

She said Marino and his district staff were at work both Monday and Tuesday this week.

Marino is a favorite in his re-election bid against Pike County Democrat and businessman Phil Scollo in the northeast Pa. district.

Sandy didn’t hit northeast Pa. quite as hard as other areas, but one of Pennsylvania’s seven storm-related fatalities occurred in Susquehanna County in the 10th district.

The deleted tweet was stored by Politwhoops, a project of the Sunlight Foundation:

And here’s the apology tweet:

Clinton Back on TV for Kane (Watch Video)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Kathleen Kane is on the air with an updated version of her strong primary election ad starring former President Bill Clinton.

Kane and Clinton rally in May

“If you want somebody who’s both tough and smart, both somebody who’s got a steel spine and a caring heart, Kathleen Kane is your candidate,” says Clinton in footage from a rally in May.

The spot pivots to boast of her endorsements from various Pa. District Attorneys as well as Fraternal Order of Police lodges, and finally to Kane herself.

Kane has been close to the Clintons for years. She worked as a high level volunteer for Hillary’s campaign in 2008.

She’s leading her Republican opponent David Freed by every indication in the AG race. The latest poll, from the Philadelphia Inquirer, showed her ahead 49 percent to 29.

Freed is on TV, too, with a straightforward spot that highlights his work as Cumberland County District Attorney.

But online, he’s throwing a punch at Kane for, among other things, her history of parking tickets in Northeast Pa. She’s had 15 of them dismissed.

Here’s that video – pretty high quality for the internet. Looks like in another universe it might have been intended for TV.


Pa.’s Got the Pundit Blues

Clockwise from top-left: Chris Borick, Larry Ceisler, Terry Madonna, Charlie Gerow

Aside a flurry of last-minute television ads, Pennsylvania has been notably absent from the battleground state conversation. No one (besides TV networks) is harder hit than Pa.’s pundits. PoliticsPA commiserated with a few of them.

“We are not as loved as we once were. I’m fielding many fewer interview requests from out of state media outlets,” said Chris Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion.

“In 2004 and 2008 it was hard to find a day in September and October when I didn’t get a call from a reporter outside of Pennsylvania who was covering some aspect of the state’s role in the presidential election… One of my most notable memories is of a BBC reporter coming to my house to watch a presidential debate.”

“On the positive side I had more time this year to coach my youngest son’s fall baseball team and I have taken my dog on many more runs, so my family and dog are much happier with me than in past election seasons.”

“At this point in a presidential cycle, at least 10 national reporters – newsprint, national and cable – would be in the state asking where they could find certain voters like suburban female undecideds or blue collar working class voter,” said Terry Madonna, Director of the Franklin & Marshall College Poll and Pa’s preeminent pundit. “So far I have gotten two calls about visits to the state.”

“Calls about PA as a swing state are few and far between,” he said. “I do get calls everyday about the the national election, about certain voters and voting trends.”

“I think I’ve done more interviews with foreign media – England, Germany, Brazil, Switzerland, Israel, Japan and France come to mind – than with national media focussing on PA,” said Charlie Gerow, Republican Political Consultant and Owner of Quantum Communications.

However, he did see an uptick in interviews during debate season

“Because I do a lot of debate preparation and advice, I get a lot of calls for comment about the debates,” he said. “I did a ton of both print and electronic media around the primary debates and even more with the Presidential and Vice Presidential debates.”

Jon Delano, the Money & Politics for KDKA in Pittsburgh, said he, too was feeling the dropoff.

“I have done a number of out-of-state radio hits on Pennsylvania in Campaign 2012, along with numerous calls from those DC-based webpages (HuffPost, RealClearPolitics, etc.),” he said, “But I agree that the Fall campaign has been less active than last Spring when my phone and email were overwhelmed with Santorum inquiries.”

“Since they can’t call Terry Madonna or Chris Borick all the time, guys like me would make up the slack,” joked Larry Ceisler, the Principal Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy (and one of the owners of PoliticsPA).

“So this year for us in the second tier, we are in a true pundit recession with the only stimulus being a possible late Romney effort,” he said, before news this week that the GOP would spend about $5.5 million on TV in Pa. this week. “The beneficiaries of course are my clients to whom I never have to tell them their work was delayed by an interview request.”

“Hopefully we will be back in the game next time. It is actually good for the state when I get a lot of calls because when politicians and the media pay attention to the state, it means they are also sensitive to our issues and challenges. And for the people who do get paid, the media in ad sales, political operatives and other vendors, it is a real boost for our economy. So though I am hoping for a D sweep from Obama on down, let’s keep it close enough so I can regain my second tier punditry status and give Madonna a break.”

Smith’s Daughter Stars in Closing Ad (Watch Video)

We met his mom, now meet Tom Smith’s daughter Allison. She stars in the GOP Senate hopeful’s closing ad

“Let me tell you about my dad. At 53, he and mom gave 4 adopted kids a loving home. He built a recreation facility used by local schools and churches. And he created hundreds of jobs so others can live the American dream,” she says.

“If he’s as good a Senator as he is a father and neighbor, Pennsylvania will be in great hands.”

It’s the first mention mention, in any Smith ad, that he and his wife adopted children.

He’s challenging freshman Democratic Sen. Bob Casey. Once a longshot, Smith’s overwhelming TV ad spending has helped make it a race.

From the lush foliage in the background it’s clear that they’ve had it in the hopper for a few months, and now’s the time to use it.

The aim is to humanize Smith and raise his positives.

It could also help close Smith’s gender gap. He trailed among women by 22 points in a Franklin and Marshall poll released Wednesday. That’s at the very high end among independent polls, but the fact remains that he has catching up to do.

Smith’s campaign wouldn’t comment when asked whether this was their closing ad, but it has all the hallmarks of one. It’s a deliberate effort to set the conversation for the home stretch. Plus, there are just 6 days left in the campaign and it takes a day to get an ad on TV (and time to create a new commercial).

Asked about the ad, Casey Campaign Manager Larry Smar didn’t mention Smith’s daughter – just his conservative stances on the issues.

“Tom Smith’s extreme Tea Party policies are very dangerous for Pennsylvania families,” he said. “Smith has been running attack ads against Bob Casey since last year in order to cover up his plans to slash taxes on millionaires like himself while increasing taxes on middle class families and end Medicare.”

Obama On TV in PA (Watch Videos)

President Obama’s campaign is on television in Pennsylvania for the first time in months: a $1.6 million rotation of one positive and one negative ad.

The positive spot (below) is a straight-to-camera appeal by the President for a second term. The negative spot (above) is a hit on Mitt Romney over his tax plans.

The Obama buy came in response to a flurry of GOP activity in Pa. Here’s the rundown of spending for the final week of the campaign:

Restore Our Future (pro-Romney super PAC): $2.1 million
Obama campaign: $1.6 million
American Crossroads (Karl Rove’s super PAC): $1.2 million
Americans for Job Security (GOP super PAC): $1.1 million
Mitt Romney campaign: $930K

Republicans say the move is a response to signs that Romney is surging nationally and Pa. is in play. Democrats say it’s a desperate move based on the back that Romney can’t move numbers in other swing states, and the GOP has a surplus of cash.

Given the fact that the polls started moving in Pa. back in early October and the buys are just coming now, it looks like it might be neither. Rather, it could be an effort by the better-funded GOP to force Obama’s team to spend more on defense that it’s less able to afford.

Here’s the positive Obama ad:

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