The midterm race in Pennsylvania for U.S. Senate could have been a contender for statewide fascination, a rematch of the 2016 presidential election here that ended with Donald Trump prevailing by a fraction of a percentage point.
Instead, the contest between the incumbent, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., and his Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, has been more snoozy than newsy as it enters the final week before Election Day.
Barletta insists the "sleepy" nature of the race plays to his advantage and has discouraged outside political organizations from flooding the air with independent ads, allowing Barletta to focus on drawing contrasts with Casey in front of crowds on the campaign trail.
"I like where we are because I believe there's the same kind of movement here in Pennsylvania that was happening during the Trump-Clinton campaign," Barletta said Tuesday after stumping in Chambersburg and Mechanicsburg, in the central region. "Although it has been written as a disadvantage to me, I'm glad it's a sleepy race, because it kept these outside groups out."
Casey, who is seeking a third term, didn't buy into his opponent's somnolent read during a campaign stop at a union hall in Montgomery County on Tuesday afternoon.
"It may be a race where people kind of focused on it late," said the Democrat from Scranton. "But I think it's going to be a fight to the finish, and we're going to be all across the state in the course of seven days to try to get votes in every community."
There has been plenty of effort to inject energy into the Senate race. Trump has visited Pennsylvania twice for Barletta rallies and fund-raisers — Wilkes-Barre in August and Erie three weeks ago. He also sent Vice President Pence to Philadelphia in July to help raise funds for Barletta, who was co-chairman of Trump's campaign in Pennsylvania in 2016.
Former President Barack Obama came calling on Casey's behalf in September, rallying Democrats in Philadelphia.
Still, the race lacks much drama. An average of polling compiled by the website Real Clear Politics shows Casey holding a 16-point edge on Barletta.
That is likely a function of name recognition. Casey is the son of a former governor and has held some sort of statewide office for two decades. Barletta, a former mayor of Hazleton who has served four terms in the House, has been unable to raise enough money to broadcast enough campaign commercials to tell his story.
The most recent federal campaign finance reports show Barletta with just over $1 million in the bank as of Oct. 17 while Casey had just under $4.5 million.
Casey has presented himself as a check on Trump's power, railing about corporate interests that push for tax breaks, pliant U.S. Supreme Court justices, and limits to organized labor. Barletta pitches himself as a needed ally for the president in the Senate, especially on immigration issues, and knocks Casey as sliding from moderate to more progressive while in office.
Casey had no interest in acting overconfident, predicting that "Republicans will come home" for Barletta and casting Pennsylvania as "a 52-48 kind of state," a potential percentage spread for the vote next Tuesday.
Here, at last, Casey and Barletta find common ground.