Battling for Senate seat, Casey and Smith meet for debate in Philly

The first and only debate between the two men vying for Pennsylvania’s open U.S. Senate seat will take place Friday night in Philadelphia.

The event may be the one time Democratic incumbent Sen. Bob Casey and GOP challenger Tom Smith will share the same stage.

Republican consultant Charlie Gerow says he’ll be watching for style and tone — including how aggressive Casey will be and how specific Smith will be.

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“If Bob Casey is kind of laidback and rolls with the punches, I think that will be a missed opportunity for him,” Gerow said. “Conversely, I think it will be interesting to see how specific Tom Smith is in going after Sen. Casey. If he is simply lobbing the stock speech or whether he’s got some specific bullets he’s prepared to fire.”

Recent polls showed Casey’s once-sizeable lead over Smith has dwindled to the single digits.

But one Democratic political strategist says the race won’t be decided by a debate, even if Smith comes out on top.

Larry Ceisler, based in Philadelphia, says he doubts voters will really pay attention to it, unless it produces some big gaffe.

“This Senate race is not about debates, it’s about media advertising … and how the people at the top of the ticket are going to do in bringing people out to vote,” he said.

Smith has been on the air for months with an ad campaign buoyed by millions of his own money.

Casey has only recently begun campaigning in-person, and this week an outside Democratic superPAC announced it would bankroll Pittsburgh-area TV ads on his behalf.

The debate will be broadcast Sunday at 1 p.m. on Channel 6 in Philadelphia.

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