santorum.jpg

Tuesday is primary day in Pennsylvania. It’s a crucial state if the Democrats are going to re-capture the House of Representitives from the current gaggle of rubber-stamp Republicans. But it is also a crucial state for the less likely Democratic capture of a majority in the U.S. Senate. There just aren’t enough vulnerable Republicans up for re-election for me to feel as optimistic about the Senate as I do about the House (where every single incumbent has to face the voters in November). But if the Democrats are going to have any chance at all in the Senate, capturing the Pennsylvania seat now held by uber-extremist Rick Santorum is absolutely crucial — zero wiggle-room here.

Santorum is currently struggling from a bout of rather virulent ethical problems, many of which seem to have at least skirted the bounds of criminality. You’ve probably heard of the K Street Project he and Tom DeLay ran as an effective tool for funding the Republican Party through grateful, very grateful, corporate lobbyists. That isn’t the half of it. The American Prospect has cast considerable doubt on the circumstances of how he financed his home and depending on how you differentiate between gifts people give to lawmakers they like and bribes they give to lawmakers who do them favors, Santorum could well find himself rooming with Randy "Duke" Cunnungham in the not too distant future.

Even other Republicans have publically admitted being embarrassed by Santorum’s narrow-minded bigotry and his name has come into the English language as a way of representing some highly unflattering images. OK, so can we all agree, 100%, that getting rid of Man-on-dog Santorum would be a really good thing? Good. Now let’s get to the primary Tuesday.

If you haven’t paid close attention you’d think the Democrats have already picked their candidate to oppose Santorum, Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Bob Casey, son of a recent PA governor. And you’d be partially correct. The Inside the Beltway Democratic Power Elite has already picked their candidate. And if you’re a fan of Bush’s favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman, you’ll probably love Casey. (I only say "maybe" because Casey is considerably more reactionary on most issues than even Lieberman.) But if right-wing, pro-Big Business, anti-choice Democrats are your cup o’ java– and you accidentally stumbled into FDL– Bob Casey is the man for you.

Otherwise, you might want to consider Chuck Pennacchio, the progressive, grassroots candidate, the one Chuck Schumer and his DSCC makes believe doesn’t exist. Although Schumer’s contemptible and treacherous tactics worked at driving grassroots hero Paul Hackett out of the Democratic senatorial primary in neighboring Ohio. Pennacchio still hasn’t given up — despite the success Schumer and Casey and the Democratic Establishment have had in giving Casey’s candidacy an air of absolute inevitability.

Presumably they’re counting on the unquestionable egregiousness of Santorum to turn out Democratic and independent voters regardless of how abysmal the alternative to Santorum is. And maybe they’ll be proven correct. But don’t count on it. In recent polls, as Pennsylvanians get to know exactly who Bob Casey is, his huge lead has shriveled to a meager 6%. And once Santorum is sure Casey will indeed be his opponent he has a humongous campaign chest to use to make sure Democrats do know exactly who Casey is. One example is to let women know– who make up almost 60% of the Democratic base in PA– that Casey is anti-choice… very anti-choice. Of course, so is Santorum, but Santorum doesn’t need the pro-choice voters. The anti-choice voters love him.

The turning point should have been when Casey, feeling cocky, gratuitously endorsed Bush’s horrid right-wing nominee for the Supreme Court Judge, Sam Alito. I thought PA Democrats would be outraged and snap out of the inevitability spell and take a real look at Pennacchio. They didn’t.

Yet Pennacchio is a much better candidate, and a real Democrat who will offer PA voters a clear black and white choice between Santorum’s and Bush’s discredited policies and progressive solutions. Here’s what my old hometown paper, the Pocono Record, had to say about Pennacchio on January 20:

He is pro-choice on abortion, opposes the Patriot Act and supports immediate pullout of United States troops from Iraq. He advocates universal health care and a sharp increase in the minimum wage to bring it to what he calls a ‘living wage’ of slightly more than $9 per hour. He also says he will not accept donations from political action committees or corporations.

Something tells me this sounds as good to most FDL readers as it does to me. Casey, on the other hand, though somewhat stealthily, is anti-choice, supports capital punishment, and has said he would have voted to attack Iraq.

Today I tried to talk my friend Stephen, who has a second home in Bucks County, to switch his voter residence so he could vote for Pennacchio (as well as for Patrick Murphy who is hoping to retire Bush’s local rubber-stamp loon, Mike Fitzpatrick). He refuses; too much work. Instead I got him to promise to talk to at least half a dozen neighbors about Pennacchio and Murphy.

Although Murphy does, most of the great Democrats running in the congressional primary Tuesday don’t have serious competition. Eleven of the nineteen congresspeople from Pennsylvania are currently Republicans. It would be great if that was reversed in November. And it’s not so far-fetched a goal. Tuesday it’s crucial that the strongest Democrats — and that means real Democrats, proud of Democratic values — against the Republican incumbents. The best Democratic candidates that I’ve been able to find, besides Pennacchio and Patrick Murphy are Lois Murphy, Joe Sestak, Chris Carney, and Tom Kovach.