PPP's early looks ahead to the 2012 Senate races have found a lot of the Democrats first elected in the wave year of 2006 to be extremely vulnerable for reelection- Bob Casey is not one of them. He has solid approval numbers and leads five prospective opponents tested against him by margins ranging from 7 to 23 points.
41% of voters in the state approve of the job Casey is doing to 29% who disapprove. He's on positive ground with independents but the most striking thing within his numbers is that 23% of Republicans approve of him to only 47% who disapprove. To put those figures in some context Arlen Specter's breakdown with GOP voters on our last poll before the election last fall was 9/86 and Ed Rendell's was 11/80. Republicans just don't have as big a problem with Casey as they do with most Democratic politicians.
The Republican tested in the poll who comes closest to Casey is Rick Santorum, who nevertheless trails 48-41. Doing next best is former Governor Mark Schweiker who trails 47-34, followed by Congressman Jim Gerlach who's down 49-33, Congressman Charlie Dent whose deficit is 51-31, and actual announced candidate Marc Scaringi who trails 50-27.
Two things persist throughout all five match ups: a strong advantage for Casey with independents and an inordinate amount of crossover support from Republicans. Casey has at least a 20 point advantage with independent voters against all 5 of the GOPers tested- it's 20 over Santorum, 22 over Gerlach, 24 over Schweiker, 30 over Scaringi, and 38 over Dent. Casey also gets 13-16% of the Republican vote in each scenario. To put that in perspective Joe Sestak received only 8% support from GOP voters in his contest against Pat Toomey last fall.
It should be noted that with the exception of Santorum none of the Republicans are particularly well known and as a result it seems likely that they would pull closer if any of them were actually to make the race and build their name recognition up across the state. Schweiker's brief term as Governor doesn't seem to have made much of an impression on voters, 66% of whom have no opinion about him. That goes up to 74% for Gerlach, 76% for Dent, and 85% for Scaringi. Santorum is certainly well known but he is not well liked with only 38% of voters rating him favorably to 44% with an unfavorable opinion.
Casey is not unbeatable by any means but he will be a very formidable candidate and he's on much safer ground than the Sherrod Browns and Claire McCaskills and Jim Webbs of the world who were also a part of his freshman class.
Full results here