At a time when the latest polling appears to show Democratic Sen. Bob Casey with a healthy lead against his Republican challenger, Congressman Lou Barletta, in the race for Casey’s seat, the two campaigns have engaged in a back-and-forth over the number of scheduled debates before the Nov. 6 election.
Barletta’s campaign blasted Casey for agreeing to just two debates instead of a proposed four. The agreed upon debates will take place in October in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, but Barletta had also accepted invitations for debates in Harrisburg and Scranton that Casey declined.
“News that Bob Casey is refusing to debate in Harrisburg and his home market of Scranton is not surprising, but still disappointing,” said Matthew Beynon, the Barletta campaign’s senior communications advisor, in a statement. “We can understand why Casey would not want to put his record to scrutiny in Scranton in particular. The Casey Family is proudly known for being stalwart pro-life champions, yet Bob Casey has a 100 [percent] pro-choice record.”
The Casey campaign, in turn, accused Barletta’s camp of expressing a preference only after it had learned how many debates Casey was willing to take part in.
“The #PASEN general election began 105 days ago,” wrote Casey’s communications director, Max Steele, on Twitter. “The @louforsenate team waited until an hour after finding out the number of debates the Casey campaign had agreed to to insist they wanted more. That’s not how this works.”
That's not how this works.
— Max Steele (@maxasteele) August 28, 2018
Beynon fired back at Steele on Twitter.
“You’ve been so bombastic this entire campaign, we had faith @bob_casey could back up your big talk,” he wrote. “Sorry we overestimated your boss. It won’t happen again.”
— Matt Beynon (@mattbeynon) August 28, 2018
The Pennsylvania GOP backed up Beynon, echoing his argument that Casey was denying voters a chance to hear the issued aired in all parts of the state.
But given a recent statewide poll, it’s possible that Casey’s camp is feeling like they already have the race wrapped up. Franklin & Marshall College’s Center for Politics and Public Affairs contacted 511 registered voters in the state over the course of Aug. 20 to 26.
The pollsters gave Casey a 47 to 34 percent lead in the race, and said 41 percent of registered voters feel Casey is doing an excellent or good job as senator.
“The dynamics of the race have changed little since our March survey and reflect the fact that one in two (53 percent) voters don’t know enough about Mr. Barletta to have an opinion,” pollsters wrote. “In the June survey, two in three (66 percent) voters did not know enough about Mr. Barletta to have an opinion.”