Video: Battle for the Senate: Pennsylvania

By Chip Reid Correspondent
NBC News
updated 10/31/2006 1:25:42 PM ET 2006-10-31T18:25:42

The Quakertown Halloween parade is well-known for silly costumes and light-hearted fun, but with recent polls looking downright scary for Pennsylvania Republicans, Sen. Rick Santorum was running hard.

He's one of the Senate's most combative conservatives: Leading the charge against abortion, pushing Congress to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case, and nearly always supporting President Bush.

This is a tough year for Republicans largely because of the war in Iraq. That's why so many of them have put distance between themselves and President Bush on that issue. But not Rick Santorum. The war is too important, he says, to put politics ahead of principle.

"You don't walk away from people just because it's smart politically to do it," says Santorum. "It offends me! I mean, you stand up for what you believe in!"

Democrats were so eager to beat Santorum they tapped Bob Casey Jr., son of a popular former governor and an abortion opponent like Santorum.

Casey's cultural conservatism has helped him maintain a lead of more than 10 points in the polls. He says Santorum's harsh partisanship has been his undoing.

"What he has done is judge people and finger point and, frankly, lecture people," says Casey. We don't need that anymore. We're tired of that!"

Down the road, at the Buck's County Pumpkinfest, Santorum still has his admirers.

"That's what I like about him, he says what he thinks," says John Andre from Doylestown, Pa.

But even in this relatively conservative corner of Pennsylvania, there are many who disagree.

"He stands by his beliefs, I mean, that's one thing you can say about him, but I just don't share a lot of them," says Bill O'Toole from Sellersville, Pa.

In the final days of the campaign, Casey is expected to stay out of the spotlight, part of a strategy to make this race a referendum on a very red conservative running in this increasingly blue state.

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