Businessman Tom Smith is airing the first television ad of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate Thursday morning, a 30-second spot that contrasts his background as a farmer and founder of a coal-mining company with images of economic misery and Sen. Bob Casey (D.,Pa.) laughing with President Obama.
Smith is shown, in living color, at work plowing a field and in a coal mine, images juxtaposed with black-and-white shots of an unemployment application and a foreclosed house, followed by Obama and Casey.
"It's a story of hard work and determination," an announcer says. "At 19 Tom Smith postponed college to run the family farm after his father became ill. Later Tom became a coal miner. Then he mortgaged everything to build his own energy company, creating good jobs for others."
At the end of the piece, the candidate is shown reading with children. The chyron tagline: “Lifelong conservative.”
That last phrase is important, as some of his GOP opponents are making an issue of his history as a registered Democrat. Smith was even a member of the party's central committee in Armstrong County in 2010, though he was reportedly booted for opposing Democratic candidates and espousing conservative views. A tea party activist, Smith has donated to GOP candidates over the years.
His campaign has said that Smith, like many registered Democrats in southwestern Pennsylvania, has voted Republican in line with his conservative principles.
"The effort to retire Bob Casey and Barack Obama begins today - and Tom Smith is leading that charge,” said Smith campaign manager Jim Conroy in a statement.
According to the campaign, the ad is running statewide on broadcast and cable stations in the Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Altoona TV markets, and only on cable outlets in the Philadelphia, Scranton-Wilkes Barre and Erie markets.
PoliticsPA reported that the buy is worth $160,000, and will include just $7,500 on FOX News (cable) in the Philadelphia market.
The GOP race to take on Casey is getting increasingly crowded.
In addition to Smith, there are: Chester County venture capitalist Steve Welch; businessman and former 12th District congressional candidate Tim Burns; former state Rep. Sam Rohrer, who lost to Gov. Corbett in the 2010 primary; Laureen Cummings, a tea party activist; pharmacist John Kensinger; Mark Scaringi, a former Senate staffer; retired U.S. Army Col. John Vernon; Bucks County businessman David Christian; and retired U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Allen Mansfield of Philadelphia.
On Friday, seven of the candidates are scheduled to meet in New York for a debate sponsored by the Pennsylvania Business Council's Education Foundation. The event, at 2 p.m. at the Plaza Hotel, is timed to coincide with the annual Pennsylvania Society festivities, when most of the state's business and political leaders gather In Gotham to party.