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GOP Scrambles to Preserve Hotly Contested Seats

Sen. Rick Santorum (R), right, makes a point to supporters during a rally in Lancaster. Standing at left are Santorum's wife, Karen, and their daughter, Sarah.
Sen. Rick Santorum (R), right, makes a point to supporters during a rally in Lancaster. Standing at left are Santorum's wife, Karen, and their daughter, Sarah. (By Carolyn Kaster -- Associated Press)

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Monday, November 6, 2006

BLUE BELL -- With Sen. Rick Santorum (R) in trouble and three GOP congressmen in tight races in the Philadelphia area, Republicans are counting on their ground game to save their seats. Party leaders said their volunteers called 77,000 voters Friday night and knocked on 5,000 doors Saturday.

"That's going to have an impact, because I know the other side isn't doing that," Santorum told a crowd of party stalwarts here.

The other side, of course, was doing exactly that. Minutes after Santorum finished, more than 1,000 Democrats packed a community center in Norristown to hear Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stump for Santorum's challenger, Robert P. Casey Jr., as well as Gov. Edward G. Rendell and House candidate Lois Murphy. Pennsylvania labor leader Bill George warmed up the crowd with an odd joke about how it would "make a million people happy" if Santorum, President Bush and Vice President Cheney were all thrown out of a plane.

"You stand on sacred ground right here," George said. "Because you are about to change the destiny of this nation!"

Some Republicans have already written off Santorum and GOP Rep. Curt Weldon, whose home was recently raided by the FBI. And Rendell holds a commanding lead over his Republican challenger, former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Lynn Swann. But Rendell urged the Democratic faithful not to get complacent. "If you hear Bob Casey is ahead by a landslide, if you hear your wonderful governor is ahead by a landslide, don't think for a moment you can get away without voting," he said. "The only way we lose is if we ease up."

-- Juliet Eilperin


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