As the Senate races in New Jersey and Pennsylvania heat up, incumbents in both states are in danger of losing their seats. A political journalist from each state analyzes the races and the key issues the candidates are focusing on in their final efforts.
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And speaking of November 7th, Margaret Warner has our Choices '06 look at two races for the United States Senate.
Tonight, we examine the Senate campaigns in neighboring states, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In both, the incumbents — one a Republican, the other a Democrat — are in danger of losing their seats, and each is being challenged by the son of a well-regarded former governor.
In Pennsylvania, two-term Republican Senator Rick Santorum is fighting off a challenge from Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey, son of the late governor Robert Casey. And in New Jersey, Democratic Senator and former Congressman Robert Menendez, who was appointed in January, faces Republican State Senator Tom Kean, Jr., son of the former New Jersey governor and 9/11 Commission chairman, Tom Kean.
For an update on the two races, we turn to Carrie Budoff, a political reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Tom Moran, a political columnist for the New Jersey Star-Ledger.
And welcome to you both. Carrie, in Pennsylvania, Senator Santorum has won twice before, but most of the polls show him at least five points behind. Why is he having trouble this time?
CARRIE BUDOFF, Philadelphia Inquirer:
Well, I think there's several reasons why he's having so much trouble. One is that he, for the last six years, has been the spokesman for the Senate Republican majority, which was a fine thing until recently, in the last year or two, when, obviously, Republicans have really fallen out of favor with voters. He's come to represent them.
And then on top of it, he's very outspoken on a number of controversial issues. And throughout this race, he's been out there, out front, almost to the right of the president, in terms of Iraq and defending the mission. He has been critical in some areas, but for the most part he's saying we have to stay in Iraq and we actually have to look at this in a more broader term and look at this as a global war on terrorism.
And that kind of rhetoric is obviously at odds right now with where polls show voters, which is souring on the mission in Iraq. So he has just kind of found himself in a pretty tough situation for national reasons and his own reasons.
So, Tom Moran, in next-door New Jersey now, as we said, it's the Democrat, Senator Menendez, who's in trouble. Why is that?
TOM MORAN, New Jersey Star-Ledger:
Well, Menendez is leading by three or four points, so I'm not sure he's too much in trouble. That's within the margin of error. But you would think, with New Jersey being such a Democratic state — we haven't elected a Republican senator here since 1972 — that he wouldn't be having so much trouble.
I mean, there are a couple of things at work there. One is that the Kean name is revered in this state, even more enhanced after the 9/11 Commission. And it was a relief to see bipartisan cooperation. That's very appealing. And the son is trying to tap into that same spirit.
The other thing is, New Jersey is really suffering from corruption fatigue at this point. The Democratic governor had to resign two years ago. There have been a series of scandals since then. It just never stops. And Kean is trying to make this basically a referendum on ethics, like saying Menendez is part of the problem, and citing his own work in the state legislature as a leading voice in the effort to reform campaign finance rules.