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The Case of Pennsylvania

It is easy to show how boneheaded actions and poor performance in areas from Social Security and Terri Schiavo to the economy and Tom DeLay are dragging down Bush's popularity and that of his party. But the key question from now through the 2006 election will be the extent to which that unpopularity spreads to the GOP's Congressional candidates and drags down their electoral fortunes.

Which brings us to the very interesting case of Pennsylvania. Based on a new Quinnipiac University poll, it appears that in this state Republican Senator Rick Santorum, up for re-election in 2006, is definitely being hurt by his association with unpopular GOP initiatives. As Clay Richards, assistant director of the poll, notes:

The numbers show clearly that Sen. Santorum has lost ground in his re-election bid over the last two months. The Senator has come under strong criticism for his outspoken involvement in the Schiavo case and his campaigning for President Bush's unpopular Social Security proposal.

Let's take a look at some of the data from the poll.

1. Santorum's approval rating is down to 48 percent approval/35 percent disapproval (40/40 among independents), only the second time his rating has been below 50 percent. Bush's approval rating in the state is down to 43 percent, with 55 percent disapproval (37/60 among independents), his second worst rating ever.

2. Santorum's re-elect number has slipped to 44 percent, 9 points down from February's 53 percent. And he now loses to Democrat Bob Casey in a Senate horse race question by 49-35, a contest that was only 46-41 in February. Santorum gets thumped, 52-28 among independents, loses 62-28 in the Philadelphia area and loses every other area of the state (except the central area) by at least 11 points.

3. Bush's proposal to change Social Security "to allow people to invest some of their Social Security taxes in stocks and bonds" is opposed 55-37 by Pennsylvania voters (59-31 among independents.

4. By 38-15 (41-11 among independents), Pennsylvania voters say Santorum's advocacy of Bush's proposal makes them less likely not more likely to vote for him. And by 34-14 (41-11 among independents), Pennsylvania voters say Santorum's role in urging Congress to intervene in the Schiavo case makes them less likely not more likely to vote for him.

Sounds like Santorum's loyal service to the Bush machine is starting to backfire on him! And that's got to make Bob Casey--and Democrats everywhere who want to take back Congress--very happy indeed.