Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks at a rally Friday night for Sen. Rick Santorum, left, at Wilkes-Barre Township’s Volunteer Fire Company. Santorum faces a serious challenge from Democrat Bob Casey Jr.Times Leader Staff Photo/Fred Adams
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – With just a few days left until elections, embattled Republican Sen. Rick Santorum has stepped up the intensity of his campaign, bringing in former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani to stump for him Friday night at a rally in Wilkes-Barre Township.
A capacity crowd of supporters packed into the township’s volunteer fire company hall on Watson Street Friday armed with campaign placards and homemade signs for Santorum, who trails Democratic opponent Bob Casey Jr. in the most recent polls.
The mood in the fire hall was optimistic, almost defiantly optimistic, as Giuliani exhorted the gathered faithful to work hard to get the Republican vote out on Tuesday.
“We need your help in the coming days,” he said to a loud and extremely chant-prone crowd. “Do not listen to the polls. Everyone’s ready to call this election — the media, the pollsters, the Democrats — but what stands between them and the outcome is the American people and the people of Pennsylvania.”
With Santorum trailing Casey by about 11 points in recent polls, the rally Friday was less about convincing swing voters — there didn’t seem to be any on hand anyway — than it was about turning out as many Republican voters as possible on Tuesday.
Wendy Heffinger, a loyal Republican from Scranton, brought her two daughters, ages 13 and 10, to expose them to what she called “grassroots” politics. “Coming out to these things helps remind them that this is the guy we need in office. Pep rallies are important; they help get the vote out.”
That was Santorum’s main message to his supporters Friday. The race between Casey and Santorum is one of a handful of key races that could shift the balance of power in the Senate. Democrats need to win six seats to gain control of the Senate and Casey has led Santorum in polls throughout the campaign, bringing national attention to the race.
Giuliani, well aware of what’s at stake for the GOP, framed the Santorum-Casey contest in the starkest terms at Friday’s rally, calling the incumbent senator a “conviction politician … we can’t afford to lose,” and saying that a Democratic-controlled Senate would “push us to go back on the defensive against the terrorists, like we were before 9/11.”
For his part, Santorum is pulling out all the stops in the final days of his campaign. At the outset of the rally he was joined on stage by his wife and six children, who have accompanied him on the campaign trail in recent weeks amid a frenzy of rallies, fundraisers and speeches.
Friday’s rally was the senator’s fourth one of the day. Afterward, Santorum spokeswoman Virginia Davis said he was headed to a nearby fundraiser and then to Isabella’s Restaurant in Plains Township to film a live segment for FOX News’ Hannity & Colmes Show.