Where’s Tom Smith?
In a race of unknown candidates, the strategy for Tom Smith is clear. The best-funded of the five Republicans vying to unseat Sen. Bob Casey, Smith simply needs to let his prolific televisions do the talking.
As such, he’s missed a number of high-profile and televised forums which his opponents attended, from the Pa. Society debate in December, to WPVI ABC 6’s Philadelphia Inside Story with Matt O’Donnell which aired this morning (filmed on April 12). Other notable absences include Larry Kane’s Voice of Reason (on April 5) , Steve Highsmith’s At Issue TV program on NBC 10 Philadelphia (on March 30), and the lack of an individual appearance for a segment on PCN’s call-in show for candidates.
Rival Steve Welch says Smith is hiding.
“It raises questions about why Smith keeps pulling from public events, especially events that major press organizations cover. Perhaps he is trying to hide his 42-year allegiance to the Democratic Party; or his record of raising taxes 9 times on his constituents; or his maximum contribution to liberal Congressman Jason Altmire,” Welch’s campaign said in a statement.
Welch campaign manager Peter Towey said the absences started around the time that news broke of tax increases Smith supported during his time as a local official in the 1970s. (Smith voted to raise taxes 3 times by PoliticsPA’s count, and 6 times to maintain them at existing levels – details here).
Welch has taken his share of lumps during numerous public appearances and forums. But while dyed-in-wool activists already knew about Welch’s partisan past – he re-registered as a Democrat in 2005 and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary – but few regular voters did. The timing of Welch’s first negative TV ad – which highlights Smith’s own Democratic history – helped turn the party-switcher attack back at Smith.
Add all that to polling which shows Smith in the lead in the race – making him a target for all four opponents – and you have a picture of a candidate with little incentive to expose himself to his opponents’ fire.
Smith’s campaign says his absence from Kane’s show was a scheduling mix up. Otherwise, they say, he’s been visible.
“Tom has participated in nearly twenty public debates, and countless media interviews. He continues to welcome the opportunity to share his vision for conservative change,” said campaign manager Jim Conroy.
“This is just another desperate and dishonest attack from Steve Welch intended to distract voters from his liberal past that includes voting for Barack Obama and campaigning for Joe Sestak.”
Smith is a former coal company owner from Armstrong County; Welch is a entrepreneur from Chester County. They face David Christian, a businessman and veterans advocate from Bucks County; Sam Rohrer, a former state Rep. from Berks County; and Marc Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County.