Republican Senate hopeful Tom Smith still trails Bob Casey, but his race is closer than the presidential contest in Pa. That’s according to the latest poll from Rasmussen, which showed Smith behind Casey 49 percent to 42. Rasmussen’s most recent survey of the presidential head to head showed Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney by a 12 point margin, 51 percent to 39.
It’s the first time in 2012 that any pollster has shown the Senate campaign narrower than the presidential in numbers released the same week.
Casey is viewed favorably by just over half of voters, 51 percent, and negatively by 39 percent. Smith’s name ID remains lower but he’s still viewed positively, 47 percent to 33 percent. 20 percent of voters don’t know enough about him to have an opinion.
Unlike the presidential matchup, Casey, the Democrat, leads both men and women: men 50 percent to 45, women 48 percent to 40.
Presidential campaign spending, namely on television, has slowed in recent weeks almost to nothing. Obama’s ads are playing on national cable, with no other campaigns or PACs on the air.
The senate race, meanwhile, is heating up. Both candidates are on the air and taking shots at one another. Casey has sought to portray Smith as a tea partier who is outside the mainstream. Smith recently cast Casey as a tax and spend liberal.
The relative advantage Smith has to Romney explains the Senate hopeful’s recent shift in campaign strategy. Since he jumped into the race last year, Smith treated Casey’s ties with Obama as the incumbent Democrat’s greatest liability for the entire campaign. That changed in August.
Smith still has catching up to do, according to an average of polls in the race compiled by Real Clear Politics. Casey leads by 13.2 points on average, including this Rasmussen survey.
In fact, the latest margin is wider than a Rasmussen poll from late May. That survey, which was an outlier at the time, showed Casey leading by the same margin: 48 percent to 41.
Rasmussen surveyed 500 likely voters via automated telephone calls on September 19, 2012. The margin of error is +/- 4.5 percent. 44 percent of respondents were Democrats, 39 percent Republicans and 16 percent independent or other.