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Welch Takes Lumps at PLC Senate Debate

Rohrer Wins Straw Poll

Here is the straw poll tally:

Sam Rohrer: 176
Tom Smith: 60
Undecided: 40
Steve Welch: 19
Marc Scaringi: 10
David Christian: 8

Camp Hill — The audience responded favorably to most of Steve Welch’s answers at the U.S. Senate debate during the Pa. Leadership Conference. But the biggest crowd reactions came when his opponents – primarily Marc Scaringi – criticized the Chester County entrepreneur for his party switch and Obama vote.

“Like Steve Welch, Senator Casey voted for Barack Obama in 2008,” said Scaringi, an attorney from Cumberland County, to loud audience applause and half a standing ovation.

Welch responded as he has many times on the campaign trail so far, that he changed his registration from R to D in 2005 and voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 primary believing him to be the lesser of two evils. He said his story would resonate with wayward Republicans.

“I strayed, and it was a mistake. If I had it to do over again, trust me I would fight like every one of you to change the party from within. I can’t do that, but I do believe in redemption. Part of redemption is working hard to get rid of your mistakes.”

He later noted that he took a leave of absence from his job in 2010 in order to campaign for Pat Toomey.

But Scaringi wasn’t done.

“Steve, in 2008 you voted for Barack Obama for president, yes or no?” he asked Welch in his rebuttal.

After a pause, during which a few audience members shouted “Yes!” and the moderator discouraged further back-and-forth, Welch responded:

“I voted for John McCain.”

Pa. Leadership Conference

The PLC is an annual gathering of Pa. conservatives and grassroots. The one thing that this wide spectrum of activists has in common is their distrust of the GOP party organization and the perceived top-down nature of endorsements. Earlier Saturday morning, PLC panelists drew cheers when they suggested the entire party structure should be cast aside.

Among this crowd, Welch’s endorsement from the Pa. GOP state committee (or anyone’s) draws far more boos than cheers.

After Scaringi’s direct frontal attack, David Christian, a veterans advocate and businessman from Bucks County, struck a chord with the anti-establishment crowd. He indicted Welch over the PAGOP’s effort – since abandoned – to knock Christian off the ballot.

“Why didn’t Steve Welch go to the Governor and say this is frivolous? We should not be targeting one of our own,” he bellowed. “Leadership begins in our own ranks.”

The ballot challenge was initiated by the Pa. Republican Party with no direct relation to the Welch campaign.

Afterward Welch played down the shots his opponents took during the debate, saying people are looking for leadership rather than pot shots.

“There’s nothing new there. Nothing new,” Welch said. “I’ve been up front about my partisan part. If anything, I’ve blatantly gone out of my way to make sure people have heard it.”

How They Did

Other than the Welch-related fireworks, the event was fairly similar to the numerous debates and forums in the race so far. The candidates basically agreed on every issue.

Five Republicans are vying to defeat Sen. Bob Casey.

Scaringi probably turned in the best performance. In addition for being the boldest candidate vis-a-vis Welch, he delivered the most passionate single answer during the event.

“Senator Casey voted to bail out big labor. Senator Casey voted to continue funding for ACORN. Senator Casey voted to protect – continue funding for Planned Parenthood. The country is bankrupt. We can’t pay our own bills, yet Senator Casey find a couple hundred million dollars to give to Planned Parenthood,” Scaringi boomed as he reached a crescendo.

“This Obama-Casey agenda has bankrupted our country. It has destroyed our freedoms and our liberties. And the American people know it, and are demanding change.”

Welch was rattled by the Scaringi attack, but for the most part he was his wonkish self. He was the best candidate at weaving his bio and business background into his campaign narrative, and came across as knowledgeable. He scored a good laugh from a zinger against Casey.

“His big claim to fame was that he was going to be an independent voice for the people Pennsylvania. This a guy that has voted with the President 98 percent of the time. That is really hard to do,” he said.

“I challenge those of you in the crowd that are here with your spouse, over the next couple of weeks, start keeping track of how often you agree or disagree with your spouse. I suspect for many of you, it will be more than 2 percent of the time.”

Tom Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County, had highs and lows. He succeeded in engaging the audience during an answer about how to beat Casey.

“I would like to ask the crowd right now: who would like to see Obamacare repealed?” he asked to applause. “Let me ask the crowd one more question. The President, in complete agreement with Senator Casey, will not allow us to drill in ANWR, he will not allow us to drill off shore, and he has an all out war on coal. Do you agree with that?”

No! The audience responded.

But when asked to say what constitutes victory in the War on Terror, his response seemed more stream of consciousness than candidate.

“Just hypothetically, what if the rest of the Senate and the House and the President decided we should go into a certain country and I wasn’t completely sure but they were?” he said “That is where I guarantee you, I would get behind our troops, I would get behind that decision and we figure out, we have that mission laid out right in advance, and we go full bore.”

David Christian also had some high points in the debate, including a few laugh lines.

“When Bob Casey was elected, 40 percent of the people thought they were voting for his father. Some of the people don’t even know who he is, or what he looks like,” Christian said. “I think Bob Casey’s never had a job that his father didn’t help get him, in politics.”

“We sent a robot to Washington, DC.”

Sam Rohrer, a former state rep. from Berks County, didn’t need to throw any punches at his GOP opponents; this is his home crowd. These are the activists who fueled his 2010 campaign for Governor, he knows most of them by name, and he has long received a warm welcome at PLC (like last year). He stuck to the Constitution and his faith.

“Bob has not done what he said he would do. When he ran, he said he was going to be pro-life like his father. He is not. You cannot vote for the elimination of the Mexico City policy, embryonic stem cell research, a vote for Obamacare which include abortion funding, and say you’re pro-life.”

In a straw poll conducted before the debate, Rohrer handily carried his crowd.

15 Responses

  1. I am horrified by the fact that Sam is now running around with bankster Herman 999 Cain, and involved in a Koch Bros. organization. It appears that Sam has sold out. I am going to have to vote my conscience and back Scaringi.

  2. Sam Rohrer’s pension and pay raise votes were very bad votes and Sam has repented. We all make mistakes and Sam has admitted his and won’t do it again. This is all we can hope for.

    No one has a perfect record (not even dr. bob and I).

    The reason I support Tom Smith is that he has a necessary ingredient to campaign victory $$$.
    Sam Rohrer has not been able to convince his base to write checks. This is unfortunate. The Senate race itself will cost $20 million.

    Marc Scaringi has even less money than Sam.

    Dave Christian, like Sam, has a network. I am not sure if he can raise the money. Dave Christian needs to be thanked for his service in defending our country and the world from expansionist and violent Soviet Communism. In every age there is an Amalek, and in our time it is Islamism. Dave Christian and men and women like him are our defenders. I am not sure if he can raise the money.

    Not only can Tom Smith raise the money but I have confidence that the campaign will spend money on Voter Contact, Voter Contact, Voter Contact.

  3. Elaborative Comment:

    I posted this encounter with Welch previously on this site…

    …and I would add an example of his unctuousness by recalling his response to my expression of concern regarding Iran’s threats against Israel. “Oh, I was over there recently; did you know I own a few businesses there?” NO CONTENT.

    This is not evidence of a man who is planning to articulate a true-conservative posture…before the primary…before the general…after being elected.

  4. The fact that Welch keeps personalizing his presentation [in Allentown, @ a Fitzpatrick event, and now @ the PLC] speaks volumes; he is all EGO.

    Sam appeared last week with Guzzardi on his weekly Radio Show [Tuesday @ 11 a.m., WWDB-AM 860] and held-court for a half-hour; Tom, meanwhile, was snubbed in Allentown [which, I’m told, is characteristic of all PAGOP events]. Dave, I’m told, is the most highly-decorated [living] vet. Marc, to me, is tainted by a Santorum-history [because I find him too erratic in his quotes…born of arrogance].

    The contrast is amazingly clear, as I told Welch @ the Fitzpatrick event…after he gave the wrong [squishy, as usual] answer regarding the need to fight Worldwide Islamism. Indeed, after he gave it the first time, I was so disgusted that–uncharacteristic of my politically-motivated personality–I tried to avoid him, alas to no avail when he positioned himself @ the intersection of all walkways [near the bar, outside the ballroom].

    He would be a slick, disastrous candidate, and that fact has permeated [by information and belief] the entire party infrastructure. Granted, his opposition is divided–and he will be on the green-ballot], but I’m told reliably that, as a GOP-Committeeman, I will be free to voice my opposition to his nomination on 4/24…and I will.

    I am not particularly enamored of what transpired, obviously, and Guzzardi is concerned that the BC-linkage may have been controlling with regard to what occurred @ State Committee. This could carry profound implications when it’s time for Corbett to run for re-election, noting the ongoing fallout of the Sandusky Affair.

  5. Sam Rohrer is a life-long politician who voted himself a pay raise and pension over the will of PA voters. I’m glad he feels entitled to our hard-earner money, but he’s certainly not fit for the US Senate. Same for tax-raising life-time Democrat Tom Smith…at least Welch can point towards actual private sector, job creating experience…

  6. From my conversations, the Republican State Committee endorsement is what hurt Steve Welch the most. The endorsement meant he was an Insider and “Team Player” and opportunistically positioning himself. I don’t think the party helps him with money as far as I know.

    In my opinion, BrabenderCox is a negative. It is a very expensive campaign consultant that diverts money and resources away from Voter Contact.

    The activists and ideologues do NOT talk about money and until we learn how to raise money we will continue to fight uphill. Tom Smith has contributed almost half million to conservatives and I expect will deluge the airwaves and media with advertising.

    Campaigns need a candidate with convictions with money, manpower and message. All the Republicans have a message. Sam has manpower and only Tom Smith has the money necessary to run a statewide campaign.

    A football field is 100 yards long whether you like it or not. Money is a necessity.

  7. People and Principals before the party. I think we should agree and build the gop on this statement
    so we the people can defeat socialism in this land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

  8. “Intersting Observer” you have blinders on. Didn’t you hear Corbett admit at the State Committee meeting..and I quote:

    “I’m a big fan of the endorsement process. If it wasn’t for the Republcan party endorsment I would not be standing here as your Governor today”!

    This was after Corbett was observed backing Committee people into corners and THREATENING them with their jobs if they did NOT Endorse WELCH.

    The Endorsement process cut SAm off at the knees. He rasied $700,000 or only 2.5% of Corbetts $28,000,000 with about hald of that coming form teh party itself.. However isn’t it intersting how a man with such wide name recognition and all that money spent most of his time defending his positions and flip flopping on the issues.

    Corbett lost 31% of the vote to SAM. Can you imagine how much he would have lost if only he had the coconuts to debate SAM? Or if they allowd the postive comments about SAM to remain on the GOP facebook page for longer than 4 minutes? Of if SAM had been allowed to had out his brochures at GOP events?

    I want to see how Corbett does when people learn he had been preparing to adopt OBAMACARE while promising and then Endorsing an OBAMA voter for the US Senate…OVER CURT SHRODER.

    He endorsed an OBAMA voter over ROHRER who was considered the most conservative man in Harrisburg? The man who CORBETT stole most of his platform from?

    How are PENN state fans feeling about Mr Corbett right now? I bet he is not too sure of his name recognition working for him now

    Lets face it if the odds were even and People saw This Elmer FUdd of a man in a real debate he wouldhave been thelaughing stock of PA.

  9. you mean the same people that supported Sam Rohrer for Governor is supporting Sam Rohrer for Senate?

    My God, Call CNN! Break-in on NBC. That’s some hot political news!!!

    Fact is these ‘activists’ are out of touch with Republican Voters. Last year they selected Herman Cain for(wait for the punch line) president, the year before that it was Sam Rohrer for governor and metcalfe for Lt Governor. Then it was Panepinto for one of the 25 statewide judge races he’s run for. All who lost by LARGE margins

    Fact is, this isn’t exactly a bellwether with predictive value of what actual Republican voters will do.

  10. Something doesn’t jive with me when Steve Welch calls himself pro-life but also supports Joe Sestak.

  11. My wife and I attended the PLC and I’m sure that today was a tough pill to swallow for Steve Welch and the PAGOP! This is what happens when you have a “top-down” rather than a “bottom-up” association with “the Party Faithful”!

    I hope the PAGOP and the RNC were paying CLOSE attention to the proceedings at the 2012 Pennsylvania Leadership Conference!

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