Casey’s Consistent Winning Puts Him In Play
You can bet U.S. Sen. Bob Casey will think hard about running for president and the chance to take on President Donald Trump in 2020. Almost no one mentions the 58-year-old Scranton Democrat as a serious possibility. “I don’t think anybody’s talking about Casey,” said Robert Speel, Ph.D., the chairman of political science at Penn State University, Behrend, near Erie. Trump called him “Sleeping Bob” at an August rally for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Lou Barletta, but Casey just walloped the president’s guy by 12.8 percentage points. The margin ranks larger than his 9.1-point, 2012 win against Tom Smith but well below his 17.4-point, 2006 win against U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. “Casey’s kind of quiet and subdued,” Speel said. “He’s certainly not a bombastic type. He’s almost the direct opposite of Donald Trump. He’d be an interesting contrast.” Casey hardly has mentioned himself as a possibility, and only when asked. “We’ll see,” he said Thursday when NBC News asked him about the possibility. “I want to be open to all possibilities,” he said when Politico followed up. Casey declined to say he’s considering a bid, telling Politico it’s “early in the process.” He clearly has not ruled it out. He didn’t on Election Day, and he didn’t when talking about it Friday with Roderick. “When an election is that important, I think, to the future of the country, obviously, it’s something you think about,” Casey said. “But when it comes to that question you’ve got to spend a lot of time and the first threshold question is, is that something you want to do for the next 18 months, which could turn into almost two full years? And then the second questions are OK, well, how will it work? What’s your level of support? Can you win? Can you build a campaign? I’ve not even begun to think about the second question, and I’ve not spent nearly enough time on the first.” For now, he said, he looks forward to “getting back to the important daily work I try to do in the Senate.” “But because of the stakes, to do this well in a re-election in what might be the most critical state, and just to rule it out, I think is a mistake,” Casey said. Casey’s right. In this election, he really did well. His vote percentages ran well ahead of 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in all 67 counties. (Gov. Tom Wolf ran even better than Casey, by the way.) Casey’s 86.7 percent in Philadelphia topped President Barack Obama’s elections and Clinton’s. He won the four Philadelphia suburban counties by 24.7 points, a monstrous margin. Clinton won them by 14 points, Obama by 15.6 points in 2008 and 9.7 points in 2012. More significantly, Casey won only four more counties statewide than Clinton, but ran far stronger outside of the southeast. He won the northeast counties by 4.4 points; Clinton lost them by 8.1 points. Clinton lost the southwest by 30.9 points; Casey lost by 8. Clinton lost the northwest by 30, Casey by 11. Clinton won Allegheny County by 14, Casey by 33. Clinton lost the middle of the state, “the T,” by 26.6, Casey by only 13.5. Undoubtedly, Casey held onto a lot of working-class voters who backed Trump. That’s simple math. Skeptics will say, “Sure he’s popular in Pennsylvania, but what about everywhere else?” Well, first of all, don’t downplay Pennsylvania’s importance. In part, Trump won the presidency by winning three traditionally Democratic states — Wisconsin (10 electoral votes), Michigan (16 electoral votes) and Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes) by a combined 77,744 votes. Shift Pennsylvania’s 20 electoral votes away from Trump, who received 306, and he’s at 286, 16 above the minimum to win. Take away Wisconsin and he’s up only two votes. Take away all three and he loses. Returning Pennsylvania to the Democratic column in 2020 will top the list for any nominee. Casey as the nominee would virtually assure that Pennsylvania turns blue. “He has an appeal across a wide spectrum of voters,” said G. Terry Madonna, Ph.D., the Franklin & Marshall College pollster and political analyst. “That’s his biggest advantage, that he relates to working-class voters, given his history, and does well with suburban voters. And that’s what a Democratic presidential candidate needs.” Working-class Democrats deserted Clinton for Trump in droves, but not Casey. Casey sits on committees that oversee issues like aging, Social Security, Medicare, banks, trade and taxes and groups that work on weapons of mass destruction and security. When Casey first joined the Senate, Sen. Joe Biden added him to the Foreign Relations Committee. Eventually, Casey chaired the subcommittee that oversaw the Middle East, which he visited several times. Iowa has lots of farmers, whose issues a Senate agriculture committee member like Casey probably understands. “It’s not that he doesn’t have the qualifications that many of these other Democrats do. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that,” Madonna said. “The problem is the fundraising, the problem is devoting literally two years of your life to that, whether you want to do that. There’s complexities to it that go beyond just will he run or not.” Casey’s father, the late Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr., announced a bid for president once, but health forced him to bow out quickly. Don’t think the son who carries his name forgot his father’s aspirations. In 2004 Casey, unable to run for a third term as state auditor general, easily won the state treasurer’s race. A lot of people thought he just parked himself there to run for governor. Few thought he would run for senator. Casey later credited U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski for pointing out to him that timing means a lot in politics, and that the time for a Senate run was right. He’s back there again. BORYS KRAWCZENIUK, The Times-Tribune’s politics reporter, writes Random Notes.