THE SCENE following last Friday's lone debate in the Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race spoke volumes, even if the Republican nominee didn't mean for that to happen.

Tom Smith, a wealthy political novice, told reporters that he felt good about his performance and vowed to continue pressing his Democratic opponent, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., on his record.

Smith brushed off a suggestion that he seemed nervous during the debate, explaining that he has trouble remembering names, when it was noted that he twice called the moderator by the wrong name.

His staff pounced, pressing the candidate toward the door, cutting off questions. Two reporters followed, asking questions.

Smith delivered the same line about Casey's record, almost word-for-word, and then referred questions to his campaign.

Back in the television studio where the debate was held, Casey was being Casey: Cautiously and methodically answering questions while also staying on script.

"Apparently my opponent thinks that a tea-party ideology, kind of a rigid, no compromise ideology, is what Washington needs," Casey said, repeating a theme his campaign has used against Smith for months. "I don't think we need more of that. I think we need less of it."

Four days before the election, for Smith, 65, the campaign exists really on television, where he hammers Casey as ineffective, labeling him "Senator Zero."

For Casey, 52, the campaign for a second six-year term exists on the fundraising circuit, where he races to keep up with Smith's cash.

Smith sold his Armstrong County coal company in 2010 and dumped $16.5 million of his profits into the campaign.

Casey rejects the notion that he took Smith lightly or the criticism from former Gov. Ed Rendell that his campaign is listless.

"I've had tough races. This is a tough race," said Casey, who served two terms as state auditor general, lost a Democratic primary election for governor, and then served two years as state treasurer before defeating U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, in 2006. "It's Pennsylvania. We expect it to be close."

A Daily News/Franklin & Marshall College Poll released Wednesday showed Casey leading Smith, 46 percent to 35 percent, among registered voters with 13 percent undecided.

Smith held a slight two-point edge on Casey among voters in Southeastern Pennsylvania, a likely result of his steady stream of campaign commercials running in the Philadelphia market.

Casey held a 15-point edge with voters 55 or older, probably because he has repeatedly noted Smith's praise for Republican budget proposals in the U.S. House that would make major changes to the way Social Security and Medicare are administered for future program users.

Casey is a lawyer who hails from one of Pennsylvania's best-known political families.

Smith, with a high-school education, calls himself "an old farm boy who got misplaced in the mines and ended up in business."

In their stories, fathers play important but different roles.

Casey is the eldest son of a two-term governor from Scranton who was known to challenge his party on abortion. Casey's campaign stresses his nuts-and-bolts approach to democracy, working with both parties in the Senate on issues like the payroll-tax holiday.

Smith was born to a farming family near Shelocta in western Pennsylvania and turned to coal mining at age 19, when his father died. He mortgaged the farm in 1989 to start his coal company.

Smith was a Democrat for four decades, serving on his township board of supervisors from the mid-1970s to early 1980s. He was a Democratic committeeman as late as 2010 but switched parties and started a tea-party group.

Smith talks about closing large parts of the federal government, such as the Department of Energy and the Department of Commerce, but doesn't offer much by way of specifics. His concerns are focused on the economy, federal deficit and national debt.

"It's true I was a Democrat, but I was conservative so I wasn't really a Democrat," explained Smith in an April debate, before he won a five-way primary fight.

Contact Chris Brennan at or 215-854-5973. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisBrennanDN. Read his blog at