‘Senator Zero’ (aka Bob Casey) still clear favorite

With a little more than four weeks until Election Day, Senator Bob Casey has seen his lead over Republican challenger Tom Smith dwindle to single digits, according to a recent poll.

The survey from Siena College Research Institute showed the incumbent Casey with a 44-35 edge over Smith, with 16 percent of voters still undecided.

The surge from Smith, of western Pennsylvania, has coincided with him attacking Casey as “Senator Zero,” focusing on the fact that none of Casey’s proposed legislation has become law — although some have been incorporated into larger pieces of legislation passed by the Senate and Congress.

“I think it’s fairly simple, folks are starting to pay attention,” said Jim Conroy, Smith’s campaign manager, explaining the surge in the polls. “Tom hasn’t run for statewide office before and was fairly unknown and now we’ve remedied that.”

While Smith, a successful businessman in the coal industry, has gained some name recognition, the Siena poll shows he still has a ways to go in that regard, with 47 percent of those polled saying they do not have an opinion on him, compared to just 26 percent for Casey.

Smith has also had to overcome some of his own mistakes, including comments he made comparing rape to having a child out of wedlock in the wake of Missouri Republican Todd Akin’s abortion statement.

Casey’s campaign has responded with some strong ads of his own, painting Smith as a Tea Party right-winger. His office could not be reached for comment.

Pollster Terry Madonna, of Franklin and Marshall College, said Casey still holds the clear advantage. “Most of us still believe Casey’s likely to win the election,” he said.