By Ali Carey and Keegan Gibson
The GOP primary for U.S. Senate is heating up, but Senator Bob Casey is doing what he does best: keeping cool.
The first-term Democratic incumbent has the luxury of watching a crowded Republican primary from the sidelines. Meanwhile, he’s avoided the pitfalls of his predecessor Rick Santorum.
“Bob Casey doesn’t pick fights,” said one Republican operative with over a decade of statewide campaign experience. “He isn’t making enemies. It’s not ‘love him or hate him’ with Casey as it was [with Santorum], it’s ‘love him or don’t notice him.’”
Casey boasts over $3.75 million in cash on hand of the most recent campaign finance report, and according to Roll Call last Monday, he has a safe seat.
“Senator Casey is focused on his work in the Senate to create jobs, grow the economy and cut government spending. He is also preparing to run a strong campaign that will allow him to communicate his record of fighting for Pennsylvania jobs and standing up for Pennsylvanians,” says spokesman Larry Smar, whenever his office is asked for comment about the race. Casey says his campaign doesn’t have immediately plans to hire non-fundraising staff.
Dr. Chris Borick, Director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, agrees Casey is in a secure position going into the election.
“It’s not surprising that Casey has tried to avoid controversy during this year. One of his great strengths is that he is not a polarizing figure and by staying out of the fray on controversial matters he can maintain that standing heading into an election year,” said Borick.
But Borick says it’s too soon to call his seat safe.
“The volatility of economic and political conditions nationally and in Pennsylvania pose opportunities for the eventual GOP candidate. Casey is not an easy target, but he has enough liabilities to make his reelection bid a done deal.”
His poll numbers have been less than stellar, hovering around 40 percent job approval and 30 percent disapproval — better than President Obama’s ratings in the state, but far from safe. Republicans are previewing what seems likely to be a central strategy next year: linking Casey to President Obama. The latest web video from Steve Welch, a Chester County entrepreneur who twice ran for Congress last year, ticks off the issues:
“He voted for ObamaCare. He voted for the stimulus. He voted for every government regulation that is interfering with job creation,” Welch lists in the spot.
Indeed, on the big votes, there has been little daylight between Casey and the President. But it’s how Casey spends his floor time and his time in the state that defines his style. He generally keeps clear of politics and focuses on uncontroversial, wonky issues.
For fun, we took a look at the press releases his office has sent out in the past month. Here are their subject headings, in no particular order:
- JEC Hearing on the Manufacturing Sector and Improvements in the Nation’s Infrastructure
- Casey and Bipartisan Group of Senators Urge Strong Resolution on Iran at Tomorrow’s IAEA Board of Governors Meeting
- Casey Introduces Bill to Strengthen Child Protection Laws
- Casey Files Amendment to Must-Pass Bill That Would Restore Small Business HUBZone Status to 16 Rural PA Counties
- Casey Urges VA to Speed Implementation of Successful Program Helping Western PA Vets Recover from Strokes
- Casey, Toomey and Critz Oppose Closure of NDIC
- Casey Announces $3 Million for LANTA
- Casey Calls for Hearing to Examine Federal Reporting Laws on Sexual Abuse of Children
- Casey Urges Google to Host Small Business Technology Event to Get SWPA Businesses Online
- Casey To Unveil Bipartisan Bill to Help Individuals with Disabilities Save Money for Care
- Casey Announces $6.44 Million for SEPTA
- Casey Urges Administration to Investigate Companies Allegedly Aiding Syrian Regime
- Casey Introduces Bill to Help Entrepreneurs Start Small Businesses
- Casey Statement on Arab League’s Vote to Suspend Syria
- Casey on Senate Vote to Hire Veterans
- Casey Calls on Army Secretary to Finally Award Hard-Earned Medals to Pre-9/11 Veterans
- Casey: Syrian Regime Must be Held Accountable for Violence
- Casey Pushes Legislation to Hire Our Heroes – Nearly 100,000 PA Veterans are Out of Work
- Casey Introduces Bipartisan Resolution Honoring Life of Philadelphia Boxing Legend Joe Frazier
- Casey to Chair Hearing on U.S. Policy in Syria
- Casey: Cuts to Law Enforcement Programs Will Make Neighborhoods Less Safe
- Casey: Fannie and Freddie Bonuses Are an Outrage
- With 15,000 Pennsylvanians Still Without Power, Casey Calls for Investigation into Delays in Turning Power Back On
- Casey Calls on Columbia Gas for Answers After Pipeline Explosion
- Following Casey Urging, Impact Study of Hydraulic Fracturing on Drinking Water Moves Ahead
- Casey: Compromise Needed to Rebuild PA Roads and Bridges
- Casey Urges SeaWolves Ownership Group to Keep Team in Erie
- Casey Co-chairs Hearing on Women and the Arab Spring
- Casey to Lead Bipartisan Meeting in U.S. Capitol on Bloomsburg Flood Relief Project
- Casey Introduces Legislation to Hold Pakistan Accountable for Roadside Bombs
- Casey Urges Quick Answers, Open and Transparent Investigation from UGI After Millersville Gas Explosion
- Casey Makes Major Push for Congress to Adequately Fund Federal Program that Provides Critical Funding for TCMC
- Casey to Chinese Officials: Unfair Trade Practices Will Not Be Tolerated
- Casey, Toomey and Coons File Amendment that Would Increase Chances for Delaware River Dredging
- Casey Announces Grants for Affordable Housing in Philadelphia
- Casey Introduces Bill to Support Agriculture Jobs and Local Farms
- Federal Government Should ‘Buy Pennsylvania’
- Casey Urges Tax Reform to Level Playing Field for U.S. Manufacturing Companies
- Casey Calls on Obama Administration to Use Upcoming Trade Summit to Crack Down on China’s Unfair Trade Practices
- Following Casey Request Senate HELP Committee Announces Hearing On Protecting Children From Abuse and Neglect
- Casey Calls on FTC to Prevent Supermarkets, Retailers from Selling Seniors’ Private Information
- Casey Calls on BNY Mellon to Commit to Keeping Jobs in Pittsburgh
And here are the other candidates for Senate:
- Tim Burns, Washington County businessmen and former Congressional candidate
- David Christian, Bucks County veterans’ advocate David Christian.
- Laureen Cummings, a Scranton-area tea party activist.
- John Kensigner, Bedford pharmacist and one-time 2010 candidate.
- Marc Scaringi, Harrisburg-area attorney and former Santorum staffer
- Tom Smith, coal industry veteran
- Sam Rohrer, Former State Rep. and gubernatorial candidate of Berks County.
- John Vernon, retired U.S. Army colonel from Tioga County
- Steve Welch, businessman and former Congressional candidate of Chester County
- Brian Kelly (Democrat), retired software engineer and former congressional candidate