Lots of chatter today about Sen. Bob Casey, Jr., D-Penn., and his surprise endorsement today of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
It’s of obvious significance for Pennsylvanians and political dorks (I plead guilty to being both) because Casey and his family represent the voter Obama is struggling the most to win — white, Catholic, working class men.
Casey and his father, the late Gov. Bob Casey Sr., represent the sort of economically populist, socially moderate voter that one needs in order to win Pennsylvania. They are a segment, in fact, often referred to as "Casey Democrats." They vote for Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn., who has worked to have a moderate to liberal position on guns and labor issues. Many are Catholic — Irish, Italian, Poles. Many oppose abortion rights. Obama needs them if he has any hope of coming within 15 points of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y.
And it likely bears remembering that Casey Jr.’s father had been humiliated by Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992.
Gov. Casey had been a strong anti-abortion-rights activist — a law that bore his name that imposed a 24-hour waiting period on those seeking an abortion, while requiring parental consent for minors seeking the procedure became Supreme Court precedent in Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania vs. Casey.
He’d wanted to deliver an anti-abortion speech to the 1992 Democratic convention. Not only was he denied such an opportunity — which the Clinton campaign worried would create visible party divisions if not outright convention floor chaos — he was subjected to what he later would deem public humiliation. He was given bad seats from which he watched Kathy Taylor — a Republican abortion rights supporter from Pennsylvania, one who’d worked to elect the candidate Casey had defeated in 1990 — got a speaking slot instead.
Upon Casey’s death in 2000, the New Republic reported that "DNC officials sent Taylor, with a camera crew in tow, to find Casey in ‘Outer Mongolia,’ as he put it, to further humiliate him."
His son, Casey Jr., for what it’s worth, is one of the most normal-, nice-, and modest-seeming guys in the U.S. Senate. He doesn’t seem rancorous at all.
"This campaign is a chance for America," Casey Jr. said today. "A chance to go down a different path. A path of change. A path of a new kind of politics. And finally a path of hope and heeling."
"A new kind of politics. . . Healing."
I’m trying to think how I would feel about a person who was part of a team responsible for my father’s greatest public humiliation.
Today’s endorsement has also prompted a whole lot of interesting speculation about an Obama-Casey ticket — like on TNR’s The Stump.
What do you think?