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Poll: Casey holds wide lead in Senate race

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Tuesday, June 5, 2012, 9:38 p.m.

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. has twice the voter support of Republican opponent Tom Smith, but more than one in three voters remains undecided in the Senate race, according to a Franklin & Marshall College poll out Tuesday.

Casey, D-Scranton, tops Smith, R-Plumcreek, 42 percent to 21 percent, the poll found. Smith struggles with low name recognition. With about five months until the Nov. 6 election, just 8 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him compared with 6 percent who view him unfavorably. More than three in four people say they don't know enough about Smith, 64, who won his party's five-way primary in April, to form an opinion.

"There's no sense of identification with Smith," said G. Terry Madonna, director of the poll, which included interviews with 412 people from May 29 to June 4. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.

Nearly 30 percent of people say they don't know enough about Casey, 52, despite his almost six years in the Senate, eight years as state Auditor General and two years as state treasurer. Thirty-eight percent view him favorably, compared with 18 percent who view him unfavorably and 14 percent who are undecided.

"He's got this brand name, but people still don't have a real sense of who he is," Madonna said of Casey, whose late father was a popular two-term governor.

Casey's campaign could not be reached. Campaign representatives declined comment on past polls.

In poll after poll Sen. Casey has consistently failed to achieve 50 percent, a dangerous position for an incumbent career politician. Voters will continue to move to businessman Tom Smith as they learn more about his plans to create jobs and reduce the monumental Obama-Casey debt (that) threatens our future prosperity," said Jim Conroy, Smith's campaign manager.

Some voters say their pick for president is driving their choice in the Senate race. President Obama leads his Republican rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 48 percent to 36 percent with 12 percent undecided and 5 percent who say they'd vote for someone else. (Rounding makes the numbers exceed 100.) Eighty-two percent of voters who picked a presidential candidate say they're certain about their choice.

"I trust him," Anne Murphy, 68, of Media, said of Casey. But, she added, "I'm more interested in having Obama win again."

"I think (Obama) is a good person and he's doing good things," Murphy said. She said she doesn't believe Republican policies will help working people. "Everybody seems very hostile towards Obama, and I don't get it."

Deborah Whitsel said her frustration with Obama drove her toward Smith.

"I am just disgusted with Casey, how he supports Obama," said Whitsel, 62, of Shirleysburg, Huntingdon County. She said she's particularly upset with Obama's use of the EPA to regulate carbon dioxide emissions after a carbon emission law failed in Congress, and with a portion of the health care law that Catholics worry will force them to pay for abortions. "I just do not like what he's doing."

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