Sen. Robert Casey, D-Pa., has an apparent lead in his surprisingly tight reelection race, according to a Philadelphia Inquirer poll released Saturday. Casey outpaces GOP nominee Tom Smith, 49 percent to 42 percent, with 9 percent of likely voters undecided.
The results confirm that while the race has tightened, Casey, who was once viewed as a heavy favorite, maintains an advantage with a little more than a week left before Election Day. The previous Philadelphia Inquirer poll, conducted earlier this month, showed Casey ahead by 10 points: 48 percent to 38 percent.
The presidential race also has become more competitive in the Keystone State. President Obama leads Mitt Romney, 49 percent to 43 percent. In the previous poll, the president had a 50 percent to 42 percent advantage.
Casey's lead is fueled by his support among independent voters. Forty-five percent of independents chose Casey in the poll, while 36 percent chose Smith. Casey also has a significant edge among women, garnering 52 percent support compared to 37 percent for the Republican. Men are split evenly between the two candidates: 47 percent for Smith and 46 percent for Casey.
While Casey once held double-digit leads in most polls, Smith has cut into his edge by outspending the Democrat on television ads. The former coal mining executive has poured $17 million of his own money into the race, most of which has gone to an ad campaign portraying Casey as a liberal ally of Obama with few accomplishments in his first term in the Senate.
Casey has been criticized for overlooking the threat posed by his self-funding opponent, but his campaign has kicked into gear in recent weeks, increasing his public appearances and television presence. Majority PAC, a super PAC spending heavily to defend Democrats' majority in the Senate, came to the senator's aid this week, launching a television spot attacking Smith.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee late on Friday released results of its own internal poll
, showing with a 12-point lead.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
poll was conducted Oct. 23 through Oct. 25 by National Research Inc., a GOP polling firm, and Global Strategy Group, a Democratic outfit. The survey of 600 likely voters has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percentage points.