- The Washington Times - Monday, October 15, 2018

The campaign of Democratic Sen. Robert P. Casey of Pennsylvania on Monday pulled a TV ad from the home market of Republican challenger Rep. Lou Barletta, after Mr. Barletta called it cruel to his family.

Mr. Casey said in a statement that the parallels involving children stricken with cancer were unintentional, and he takes Mr. Barletta at his word about the impact it had on his family. But the Democrat’s campaign is still running the ad in the rest of the state.

The ad accuses Mr. Barletta of voting to let insurers refuse coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions. It features a woman, Stacie Ritter of Lancaster County, whose twin daughters were diagnosed with cancer saying, “if Lou Barletta has his way, kids like mine could be denied the care they need.”

Mr. Barletta says it’s inaccurate, and particularly hurtful since his toddler grandson, also a twin, is fighting cancer.

The ad won’t circulate in the Scranton area, but it will air in Pennsylvania’s other TV markets.

The Republican, recruited by President Trump and trailing Mr. Casey consistently by double digits in polls, had lashed out in a video he posted on Twitter. He said he told Mr. Casey a month ago that one of his own grandsons, also a twin, is suffering from cancer.

“To run a commercial showing twins with cancer, and to say that I would deny my own grandson health care, might be the lowest thing I’ve ever experienced in my political life,” Mr. Barletta said. “He should be ashamed. He’s hurt my family, and the commercial should come down.”

But Mr. Casey’s campaign keeps rolling along, bolstered by the issue of health care. A new Politico/AARP poll released Monday shows both Mr. Casey and Gov. Tom Wolf with double-digit leads over their Republican challengers; Mr. Casey’s lead over Mr. Barletta is 47 percent to 32 percent, a margin that hasn’t changed much since summer.

Nearly 3 out of 4 voters in the survey, 74 percent, said health care is “very important” to their vote in November, surpassing the economy and jobs (72 percent), Social Security (67 percent), and national security and terrorism (65 percent).

The poll showed that more Pennsylvania voters support the Affordable Care Act, 47 percent, than oppose it, 41 percent.

The Casey campaign also reported Monday raising $2.2 million in the third quarter, with $6.7 million in cash on hand. The campaign has raised $21 million for the cycle, breaking the two-term incumbent’s previous best.

Mr. Barletta, a former mayor of Hazleton and four-term congressman who bonded with Mr. Trump as an immigration hard-liner, has had difficulty matching Mr. Casey in fundraising or making a dent in polls despite two campaign rallies featuring the president, who carried Pennsylvania narrowly in 2016.

Then came Mr. Casey’s cancer ad, which seemed to wound Mr. Barletta personally.

“What does he think my daughter and my family is going to feel every time the commercial comes on? Is he proud of himself? Does he want to win that bad?” Mr. Barletta said.

Barletta campaign spokesman David Jackson downplayed the Democrat pulling the ad in only one TV market.

“If Senator Casey thinks his disgusting attack ad against Congressman Barletta and the Barletta family is too insensitive to run in Casey’s hometown, why is he continuing to run it across the state? He should take his ad down statewide immediately,” he said.

The ad does not mention Mr. Barletta’s grandson or his family. Mr. Casey also has raised the Ritter family’s story previously, including at a congressional hearing on health care in January 2017.

The Casey campaign’s earlier statement had said Mr. Barletta’s votes in Congress “have real consequences for Pennsylvania families like Stacie’s.”

“On Election Day, he will be held accountable for his record of voting to end protections for preexisting conditions for 5.3 million Pennsylvanians,” the campaign said.

While some Republican Senate candidates got a boost from the successful confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, it doesn’t appear to have affected Mr. Casey, who opposed the Kavanaugh nomination even before Mr. Trump made it.

The Politico/AARP poll also showed Mr. Wolf with a 12-point lead of Republican former state Sen. Scott Wagner, 48 percent to 36 percent.

Mr. Wagner released a Facebook video last week in which he warned the incumbent, “Gov. Wolf — let me tell you — between now and Nov. 6, you better put a catcher’s mask on your face because I’m going to stomp all over your face with golf spikes.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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