Tom Smith’s campaign is airing a new campaign ad in response to an attack spot from Senate rival Steve Welch. But the 30 second negative spot doesn’t target who you’d think.
Instead of a full frontal assault on Welch, the commercial gives him a quick aside and focuses fire on Sam Rohrer, the former state Rep. from Berks County.
“In the race for U.S. Senate, who’s the real conservative?” the ad opens. “Not career politician Sam Rohrer. In the state House, Rohrer voted himself a massive pay raise. At midnight. It was called ‘mugging the state taxpayers.’”
“Liberal Steve Welch?” the narrator continues. “He voted for Barack Obama for President.”
Why target Rohrer? The Smith campaign didn’t say. But one GOP media watched said it had to do with Welch’s relatively low poll numbers vis-a-vis Rohrer. Namely, that voters driven from Smith by Welch’s ads are more likely to vote for Rohrer than anyone.
“Welch is an independent expenditure for Rohrer,” the source said.
The ad presents a familiar attack on Welch. His 2008 primary vote for Barack Obama has caused him much heartburn during this campaign.
“Steve voted for John McCain for President of the United States,” said Welch campaign manager Peter Towey. “Steve has been honest about who he voted for in the primary, compared to Tom Smith who has not been honest about his history of being a Democrat for 42 years and raising taxes 9 times as an elected official.”
Welch’s ad yesterday hit on a similar theme for Smith, noting that the former coal company owner from Armstrong County was a registered Democrat his entire adult life until 2011 and gave $2,400 to Rep. Jason Altmire in 2009.
The Smith ad is familiar to Rohrer, too. The pay raise vote came up in 2010.
“The idea that someone who was a registered Democrat for 42 years and gave money to one of Pennsylvania’s most liberal Congressman could call himself a true conservative is laughable,” said Rohrer campaign manager Zac Moyle. “The truth is that unlike Tom Smith, Sam Rohrer never once voted for a tax increase and never took a dime from the pay raise while fighting for its successful repeal.”
Rohrer ran for governor in 2010, and maintains a strong base of support among conservative activists. However, he has little in the way of cash on hand. His best chance is a scorched-earth TV brawl between Smith and Welch.
If this ad is any evidence, Smith seems intent on preventing that scenario.
Welch is an entrepreneur from Chester County. Also in the U.S. Senate race, but out of the fray, are David Christian, a veterans advocate from Bucks County and Marc Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County.