Pennsylvania polling we released last week showed Barack Obama in serious trouble in the state. But Bob Casey just continues to roll along, leading his actual opponents by 18-20 points and leading a bevy of potential candidates the GOP would probably rather have in the race by anywhere from 9-16 points.
Casey's approval numbers don't exactly set the world on fire, with 40% of voters giving him good marks to 32% who disapprove. Those numbers are deceptively weak though. What keeps them down is that Democrats aren't terribly enthused with Casey- only 56% of them approve of him to 18% who disapprove. You'd usually expect a Senator to be more in the 70-80% approval range with voters of his own party. But even if Democratic voters aren't enthralled with Casey 79-85% of them are still committed to voting for him in the general election and unenthusiastic votes count just the same as excited ones.
The positive side of Casey's lower than normal approval numbers with Democrats is that the comparative conservatism responsible for them simultaneously makes him unusually popular with Republicans. 23% approve of him to 46% who disapprove. There aren't a lot of Senators who are only 23 points under water with the opposite party in this era of polarization. In that sense Casey is very similar to Florida's Bill Nelson- a lack of excitement about them from the base pulls down their topline approval numbers but their unusual level of support from the GOP makes them very, very hard to defeat in a general election.
The strongest potential Republican candidate against Casey is his predecessor Rick Santorum, who trails 48-39. Although Santorum would have a very difficult time knocking off Casey that 9 point spread actually represents a significant improvement on his 17 point margin of defeat against Casey in 2006. It's probably due more to the current political climate being far different from last time around than anything else but Casey is in a weaker position now than he was then and that makes it a little curious a more serious Republican candidate hasn't moved toward entering the race.
The candidates who had lined up to face Casey at the time we took this poll are decidedly B-list. Marc Scaringi has 16% statewide name recognition and trails Casey by 18 points at 47-29. 17% of voters in the state have an opinion about Laureen Cummings and she trails Casey by 20 points at 51-31.
A cadre of prospective candidates who don't seem likely to actually make the race against Casey do better than Scaringi and Cummings, but still all trail by double digit margins. Tim Murphy trails by 12 points at 47-35, and Jim Gerlach and Jake Corman each trail by 16 points at 49-33 and 51-35 respectively.
Casey's going to be very tough to beat. It's still odd that no serious Republican candidate has stepped up to try though.
Full results here