It’s Friday afternoon and nobody’s reading blogs, so it seems like a great time for some throwaway speculatin’.
The possibility of a Charlie Dent Senate run presents an interesting test case of the problem we saw play out in a number of races in 2010, where the more electable general election candidate is unable to get past the Republican primary. So far Dent and Jim Gerlach are probably the highest quality Republican nominees currently being chattered about – surely stronger than state Senator Kate Ward of Westmoreland or unknown Santorum staffer Marc Scaringi. Jeremy Jacobs at National Journal also mentions state Senator Jake Corman (a former Santorum aide) and radio talker Glen Meakem (who looks exactly like Rick Santorum) as possible contenders.
The problems for Dent are twofold. The same “moderate” public image he has invented to hold a Democratic district, however inaccurate, will be a major liability heading into a Republican primary, where the electorate is increasingly immoderate. Even if Dent continues to fortify the very rightwing record he has built over the past two years, it will not be possible for him to shed the moderate label that has been central to his political brand. Further, if the narrative persists that he is near the top of the Republican insider wish-list, that will only create further suspicion of his candidacy among the base. That’s all just to say the Tea Party mantle is up for grabs, but Dent will be unable to seize it with any authenticity. And it seems clear the primary will turn on who will be the best vessel to transport the Tea Party’s inchoate resentments to Washington.
Should Dent make it past the primary, he will no doubt be a bigger threat to Bob Casey than some winger, but the problem for Dent is that Casey also has a very boring, reasonable personal demeanor that will easily repel the predictable charges of Socialism and radicalism that are the hallmark of contemporary Republican campaigns. For the same reasons that Pat Toomey’s dry personal manner prevented accurate accusations of extremism from sticking to him, so too will Bob Casey’s low-key persona.
Colby at the Morning Call seems to think Casey needs to shake things up, but it seems more likely to me that if you’re an incumbent and you keep your head down, don’t make waves and avoid attracting controversy, that’s a pretty surefire path to reelection. Indeed, that essentially describes Dent’s own undistinguished political career. It’s going to be mighty hard to make anyone who has not already taken sides hate a guy like that. Add in the considerable advantages of incumbency, the coattails of a billion dollar Obama reelection campaign, and it seems pretty unlikely that Casey loses the seat.