It looks like Bob Casey's bid for reelection will be more competitive than his blow out victory over Rick Santorum was to get elected in 2006...but he's still in pretty good shape.
40% of Pennsylvania voters approve of the job Casey is doing to 34% who disapprove. Those numbers are actually better than they might appear to be on the surface though. 23% of Republicans approve of the job Casey's doing, an unusual level of crossover support in this highly polarized political climate. And he's on positive ground with independents at 40/36.
What holds Casey's numbers back is that the Democratic base is not very enthused about him- he has only a 55% approval rating with his own party to 23% who disapprove of him. But even though a good number of Democrats don't necessary like him, 77-80% of them still say they'll vote for him against any of his potential Republican challengers. Casey and Florida's Bill Nelson are in a similar boat- their topline approval numbers make them appear to be more vulnerable than they really are because their numbers get dragged down by their party base not being enthralled with them, even though it will vote for them in the end.
Casey leads all of his potential GOP opponents by double digits, but he doesn't match his 17 point margin of victory against Rick Santorum from 2006 against any of them. The Republican candidate who comes closest is Sam Rohrer, who we also found leading on our primary poll last week. Casey has a 47-36 advantage over him. Casey's up 14 on Steve Welch at 47-33, 15 on Tim Burns at 49-34, and 16 on Tom Smith at 48-32. The key statistic in all of those match ups is that Casey gets 14-17% of the Republican vote. To put that in perspective, last year we found Joe Sestak getting only 8% of the GOP vote on our final poll before the election.
This race is likely to get closer. The Republican candidates are pretty much completely unknown right now, with name recognition levels ranging from 16 to 29%. One result of that is there are far more undecided GOP voters than Democrats. Assuming those folks come home once the party has a nominee, this could end up being a single digit race.
In addition to testing the actual Republican candidates who have announced we also looked at how Santorum would do in a rematch with Casey after his Presidential bid inevitably ends. Casey leads him by a 49-39 spread. 10 points is certainly closer than the 17 point margin Santorum went down by in 2006, but those numbers don't suggest Santorum could actually beat Casey.
Casey's not totally out of the woods and his race will probably be closer than it was last time around, but on the spectrum of Republican pick up opportunities this one definitely falls into the second tier.
Full results here