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Santorum closes gap, but still faces an uphill battle for re-election

By Mark Preston
CNN Political Editor

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Rick Santorum (R) has gained significant ground in the last two months on State Treasurer Robert Casey (D), who is challenging him for his Pennsylvania Senate seat, a new Quinnipiac University poll released this morning shows. But Santorum still faces an uphill battle to win re-election, as 49 percent of Pennsylvania likely voters say that the incumbent should not be re-elected.

The poll says that Casey leads Santorum 48 percent to 42 percent among likely voters, with Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli collecting 5 percent and the remaining 5 percent of voters undecided. In a head-to-head match-up, Casey has a 47 percent to 40 percent advantage over Santorum, while a June 21 poll by the university had Casey leading Santorum 52 percent to 34 percent.

Democrats view the Santorum seat as a must win for the party to wrest control of the Senate from Republican hands in November. In an effort to help dilute Casey's support, Republicans helped Romanelli collect signatures to ensure he was on the November ballot.

"Bob Casey's lead over Sen. Santorum has shrunk to single digits in part because the Green Party candidate is siphoning votes from the Democratic challenger," Clay Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, said in a statement released with this morning's poll. "It's not surprising Sen. Santorum has narrowed the gap, but his bid for re-election is still in trouble as long as almost 50 percent of the voters say he does not deserve another term."

Preaching to the choir

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean will tell members of the Iron Workers International union today that the November elections "will be a referendum on George Bush's failed policies and Republicans clearly see the writing on the wall," according to excerpts of his speech provided to the Grind. It is unclear if Dean will directly address Sen. Joe Lieberman's (D-Connecticut) primary loss to anti-war candidate Ned Lamont, but the chairman will make a passing reference to the high Democratic turnout in Connecticut last week.

"Record turnout last week showed that Democrats are energized, and turning out in strong numbers," Dean will say.

Dean will also assure the union workers that the Democratic Party has a "unified agenda" and claim that Americans no longer believe Republicans are best suited to execute the war on terror.

"Democrats will stand up to Republican attempts to once again use fear to win elections in November," Dean will say.

The latest on Texas 22

Republican precinct chairs from the Texas 22 Congressional District will gather Thursday night in Pearland to hear from GOP candidates who are running to replace Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas). DeLay, who resigned earlier this year after winning the GOP nomination, attempted to have his name taken off the ballot so that state Republican leaders could replace it with another candidate. A Texas judge ruled against the action, so now any Republican wishing to run in November must do so as a write-in candidate.

"In an effort to find one write-in candidate that the party can support, Tina Benkiser, chair of the Texas Republican Party and the chairs of the four counties partially represented in Congressional District 22, felt this was the best way to determine the candidate the party could support," Gary Gillen, chairman of the Fort Bend County Republican Party, told members of the local party in an e-mail this morning.

The latest on Lieberman

With most of his current colleagues switching their support to Democratic primary winner Ned Lamont, Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) received some welcome news Monday when state House Speaker James Amann (D) announced he was standing by his long time friend. And it appears as though Amann is not the only powerful politician who is backing Lieberman, as the incumbent embarks on an independent bid for re-election. White House Pres Secretary Tony Snow refused Monday to say that President Bush backed GOP candidate Alan Schlesinger over Lieberman, perhaps the most outspoken Democratic supporter of the Iraq war.

"The President supports the democratic process in the state of Connecticut, and wishes them a successful election in November," Snow said.

And how exactly does Democracy for America really feel about Lamont's victory over Lieberman? Awesome, Awesome, Awesome! The headline on a fundraising e-mail sent out by the DFA to supporters in the wake of Lamont's win over Lieberman.

DAYAHEAD/Events making news today

  • President Bush visits the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia for a 9:55 a.m. ET National Security Council and Homeland Security Council briefing. At 10:45 a.m. ET, Bush meets with the Counterterrorism Team and at 11:45 a.m. ET he makes a public statement following his meetings. At 11:55 a.m. ET, Bush attends lunch with the Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Teams. He then meets with the Homeland Security Team at 1 p.m. ET. Following the meetings, Bush returns to the White House at 3:25 p.m. ET.
  • Vice President Cheney speaks to the Arizona Victory 2006 luncheon at 3:30 p.m. ET in Phoenix. Cheney then attends a 6:30 p.m. ET New Mexico Victory 2006 event in Roswell, New Mexico.
  • The Senate is in recess until September 5, 2006. The Senate Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook: http://www.senate.gov/galleries/radiotv/list.htm
  • The House is in recess until September 6. The House Radio-Television Correspondents' Gallery Daybook: http://radiotv.house.gov/news-events.aspx
  • Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Indiana), a potential presidential candidate, attends a 12:30 p.m. ET reception with Democratic state House candidates Tyler Olson and Art Staed in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Bayh then appears at a 4 p.m. ET "Wake Up Wal-Mart" news conference in Cedar Rapids. At 6 p.m. ET, Bayh attends an event for Democratic state Sen. Brian Schoenjahn and Democratic state House candidate Pete McRoberts in Independence, Iowa. Bayh closes his day by attending an event for Democratic state Rep. Ray Zirkelbach in Peosta. Zirkelbach is currently serving in Iraq.
  • Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), a potential presidential candidate, attends a lunch fundraiser for GOP state Rep. Danny Carroll in Grinnell, Iowa and later campaigns for state Rep. Bill Schnicket in Mason City. McCain is also heading to the Iowa State Fair today.
  • Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean addresses the Iron Workers International 41st Annual Convention at 3:30 p.m. ET at the Hilton Washington.
  • Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman visits New Jersey today to attend a New Jersey Victory 2006 fundraiser as well as a "Strategy and Unity Session" for state Sen. Tom Kean (R), who is running for U.S. Senate.
  • Sen. Joe Biden (D-Delaware), a potential presidential candidate, meets with Democratic activists at 6:30 p.m. ET in Sioux City, Iowa. At 8 p.m. ET, Biden visits the Woodbury County Democratic Party headquarters in Sioux City.
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