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Corman Weighing a Run for U.S. Senate in 2012

on December 19, 2010 4:11 PM

State Sen. Jake Corman, R-Benner Township, is considering whether to run in 2012 for the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Bob Casey Jr., Corman said Friday.

Reached by phone, Corman told StateCollege.com that he probably won't make a decision until the 2011 state budget is complete. He called the budget his first priority.

"I think that's the most important thing that's going on" right now, said Corman, who chairs the state Senate Appropriations Committee.

Corman, 46, was first elected to represent the state's 34th Senatorial District in 1998. He has been reelected to successive four-year terms, most recently in November.

An alumnus of Bellefonte Area High School and Penn State, he succeeded his father, former state Sen. J. Doyle Corman, in the 34th district seat. Earlier, in the mid-1990s, Jake Corman worked for then-U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum as state director for the central part of Pennsylvania.

Asked what prompted his interest in a potential U.S. Senate run in 2012, Corman responded: "As a father, I'm concerned about the direction of the country and the massive debt that's been piled up over the past couple years."

He believes that Casey's voting record "has added to that debt with his support of the stimulus and health-care bills," Corman said. "That's a concern to me.

"You can sit by and complain about it, or you can do something about it," he said. "So I am giving it some consideration."

Corman said he'll be talking with his family, friends and "key people around the state" about a potential run in 2012. He said he wants the U.S. to be a place where his children can grow and prosper.

Casey, a Democrat, is a son of the late Robert P. Casey Sr., who was Pennsylvania governor from 1987 to 1995. In 2006, 20 years after his father became governor, Casey Jr. unseated Santorum to become a U.S. senator.

Reached on Friday, Casey spokesman Larry Smar said the senator is preparing to run for reelection in 2012. After what Smar termed the "financial near-collapse," he said, Casey's top priorities have been job creation and "getting the economy back on track."

Federal stimulus legislation supported by Casey has been credited with creating three million jobs, Smar said. And he said a tax-cut agreement formalized on Friday -- and backed by Casey -- "should create jobs, provide certainty for middle-income families and provide help to people who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own."

The economy will probably continue to be a key political issue in 2012, said Robert Speel, an associate professor of political science at Penn State Erie.

Speel said he expects a lot of Pennsylvania Republicans may vie for the GOP U.S. senatorial nomination in 2012.

U.S. Sen.-elect Pat Toomey's victory this year, he said, has probably made many Republicans "eager to test their ambitions in the 2012 Senate race."

But the field of likely GOP contenders will be shaped by other factors, too -- including how Republicans perceive the strength of President Barack Obama and other Democrats, Speel said. If 2012 is looking like a good year for Democrats, he said, "that may discourage some (Republican) candidates from running."

The GOP candidate field may also hinge on whether a big-name Republican enters the race, Speel said. If a big-name Republican contender runs, he said, "that often clears the field of less-prominent candidates.

"But if there's no clear front-runner, then we're likely to see more candidates," Speel said.

Should big-name Republicans run for the Senate seat, he went on, it would probably be a challenge for a GOP candidate from Centre County to generate substantial media attention and prominence. Significant fundraising to finance statewide advertisements could help a Centre Countian overcome that challenge, though, Speel said.

"If none of the Republican candidates are well known statewide, then a Centre County candidate would be more likely to have a strong chance, perhaps through fundraising efforts or strong debate performances," Speel said.

In any case, he said, he expects that Casey will be a strong candidate for reelection. Often underestimated because of his low-key style, Casey seems to gain support with his liberalism on many economic issues and moderation on certain social issues, Speel said.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll, as reported by the Morning Call, found that 39 percent of surveyed Pennsylvanians approve of Casey's job performance; 29 percent disapprove. Forty percent said he deserves to be reelected; 33 percent said he does not deserve reelection.

"At this point, it would be difficult for a Republican to beat him," Speel said of Casey. "But it may depend on national trends in 2012."

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