Harrisburg, Pa.—Five months ago, Republicans swept the governorship and U.S. Senate seat in Pennsylvania, won control of both houses of the state legislature, and took five Democratic-held U.S. House seats. Now they are wondering whether they will be able to field a heavyweight contender against freshman Democratic Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. next year.
Talk of who Keystone State GOPers would have to run against Casey—namesake son of the state’s still-revered governor from 1986 to 1994—was a frequent topic of discussion at the Pennsylvania Leadership Conference (PLC) here. Although many names were mentioned throughout the two-day annual conclave of conservative activists, there is so far only one Republican who has filed papers for a committee to seek the ’12 nomination: attorney Marc Scaringi, a onetime staffer for former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum (who was ousted by Casey in ’06).
At the PLC, there was much talk of a possible challenge to Casey by state Sen. Jake Corman (R.-State College), who was one of the featured speakers at the conference.
“I haven’t made that decision [to run for the Senate] yet,” Corman said, explaining that his work as chairman of the state senate appropriations committee would occupy him until the state budget was completed by the June 30 decision. Would he look at a possible U.S. Senate bid then?
“Probably,” said Corman.
Former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, who drew about 34% of the vote last year in the Republican primary won by present Gov. Tom Corbett, was also discussed as a Senate hopeful. Rohrer, whose hard-line anti-tax campaign convinced opponent Corbett to sign a pledge against raising taxes, has just become state chairman of Americans for Prosperity.
Rohrer drew a standing ovation following his Saturday morning speech on applying the wisdom of the Founding Fathers to today’s issues. The former lawmaker told me he was “focusing on establishing a chapter of Americans for Prosperity here,” but also acknowledged that “there’s been a lot of speculation” about his running for the Senate, and he is not ruling out a candidacy.
PLCers discussed several “name” candidates as Republican Senate hopefuls. They ranged from Lt. Gov. Mike Cawley to Congressmen Jim Gerlach and Tim Murphy. But all are considered unlikely to take on Casey—Cawley because he has only been in his present office for three months, and the House members because they are now serving in the majority and no doubt averse to risking their status on an iffy Senate run.
So that brings us back to Scaringi, who tirelessly worked the crowd at the PLC and made it clear he did not care who else might get in the race.
“I’m working on a campaign every single day,” he said, noting that he would leave the conference early in the morning to meet with potential backers in Lancaster County.
“Look, Bob Casey was with Obama early in ’08 and is one of his top allies in the Senate,” Scaringi said. “Stimulus money, cap and trade, health care—you name it—and Casey’s with Obama 97% of the time. This race is about the future of the country, and I’m in it to the end.”
One who needed little convincing about Scaringi was Colin Hanna, veteran conservative activist and head of Let Freedom Ring. Hanna said, “I’m committed to Marc, no matter who else gets in.”
Who else gets in—if anyone—makes the Republican Senate nomination in Pennsylvania far from decided.