Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey and Republican challenger Tom Smith have begun airing their first TV ads attacking each other, using the specter of sending jobs overseas as a weapon and signaling they are ready to raise the profile of a thus-far quiet campaign.
The ads mirror attacks in the presidential and congressional races, as the candidates in Pennsylvania's U.S. Senate race try to hit populist notes and play on voters' worries over the economy.
Casey is seeking a second six-year term in the November 6 election. Smith is in his first statewide race for public office after running a successful coal mining operation.
Pennsylvania's unemployment rate was 7.5 percent in June, lower than the national rate of 8.3 percent in July, although hiring in the state has been stagnant in recent months and Pennsylvania payrolls remain below 2006's levels.
Smith's ad, released Tuesday, charges that the 2009 recession recovery bill that Casey supported "paid for jobs in China." Independent political ad-checkers have found similar claims in other campaigns to be largely false because they revolved around wind-energy projects that used components made in China.
The Smith campaign suggests it is basing its claim on a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review story from last year that reported that some components of energy-efficient streetlights and traffic lights paid for by federal stimulus dollars were made overseas.
It criticizes Casey for supporting "an energy tax that would cost even more jobs," a reference to failed efforts by Senate Democrats to advance legislation to charge coal-fired power plants as part of an approach to limiting the heat-trapping carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. Smith's ad does not back up the contention that such a plan would cost jobs.
Smith's ad goes on to say that Casey "failed to offer one single solution to create jobs," which the Casey campaign countered by pointing to Casey's advocacy for a tax credit to encourage small business owners to hire workers. That legislation has not passed.
In Casey's ad, released Friday, he said Smith backs trade laws "to send our jobs to Asia, central America, South America." It's a reference to three trade deals approved by Congress and President Barack Obama last year, but opposed by Casey.
He goes on to point to his support for "legislation to put tariffs on China now," referring to a bipartisan bill that passed the Senate in October, but has stalled in the Republican-controlled U.S. House and is opposed by Smith. The bill would allow the U.S. to punish countries that undervalue their currencies to make their goods cheaper, undercutting American manufacturers, and manufacturing-sector supporters say forcing China to increase the value of its currency would create American jobs and reduce the annual trade deficit.
"I'll always fight against unfair trade laws," Casey says in the ad.
Supporters of the trade deals that Casey opposed say the deals would lower tariffs on American businesses and farmers and boost exports to Colombia, South Korea and Panama. The Obama administration has said they could boost exports by $13 billion and support tens of thousands of American jobs. Opponents of the currency bill warn that it could trigger a trade war with China.
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