You may recall, last week on the ABC News Shuffle Podcast, we chatted with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a supporter of Sen Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
This week we interviewed Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Penn., who endorsed Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, despite having previously said he would remain neutral.
You can listen to the Casey Podcast HERE. (My thanks to ABC News Shuffle producer Julia Hoppock and assistant producer Clare Malone.)
The mild-mannered Casey showed a little fire after I asked him about Rendell’s argument that Clinton had been thoroughly vetted and Obama has not –Rendell’s calculation being that there’s only 10% unknown about Clinton and 50% unknown about Obama.
"I think the other side needs to start coming up with better arguments about how Obama can’t win," Casey said. " Some of these arguments are beginning to get really ridiculous because this should be a campaign about why their ideas are better."
Taking aim at Rendell’s "vetting" argument, Casey said "the idea that everybody in the country has everything they need to know about one candidate and 50% about Obama is a mystery, because to make that argument, and to get that argument past the hysterical laughter test is to assert that the national media has a conspiracy to keep Sen. Obama’s record under wraps until the Republicans get a hold of it and hit him over the head with it. It’s a ridiculous argument. Both of these candidates have been vetted for 18 months now, and they’ll be vetted even more. So I think whoever is nominated, they’re both going to be vetted."
Casey said he decided to publicly endorse in March after he decided whom he’ll vote for in the state’s April 22 primary.
"When a primary of this dimension is taking place in your state and you are a decided voter and you are an elected official who has run for state-wide office a number of times," Casey said, "I thought it was important to weigh in."
"I think he can best unite the country and the world," he said of Obama. "Both challenges are going to be before the next president."
Casey’s endorsement was thought to be of added importance because of the "Casey Democrats" important in the state (first named after his father, the late Gov. Bob Casey, Sr.) –
white, blue collar, often Catholic, economically populist, a bit more culturally conservative.
In short, voters Obama has had trouble wooing.
"I think we’ve made a lot of progress with regards to working families and workers generally," Casey said. "I think that’s reflected in some of the endorsements he’s received from labor organizations like SEIU is a tremendous boost for his campaign. It represents a broad cross section of workers. The Teamsters are another example of a Union that’s very concerned about trade."
By why is Clinton so far ahead with those voters, according to polls?
"I do think that time and history play a very big role," Casey said. "I’m speaking to you as someone who has benefited tremendously from the fact that a member of my family ran for office ahead of me. There’s no question that I’ve benefited from that during the time that I’ve been in public office for more than a decade now and I think that Clinton has benefited greatly from President Clinton’s years in government. For example, in Pennsylvania, they’ve been campaigning here for 15 years. A four-week or an eight-week or a 20-week campaign by Sen. Obama can’t overcome that."
Right when Obama started campaigning in Pennsylvania is when the story of the Rev. Wright scandal broke. Casey said he hadn’t heard much about Wright from voters, who were more concerned with economics and home foreclosures.
"With regard to the controversy, I know two things," Casey said, "I know Sen. Obama’s heart and his character and I know what he said in his speech. And of course I and every American I know would condemn what Rev. Wright said, but the way Sen. Obama dealt with that is an example of uncommon leadership that I haven’t seen in an American politician ever in the national level."
Asked about the potential for a vicious convention fight, Casey said, "It’s a real concern, I think that most Democratic Party leaders, elected officials, delegates, voters, whoever you talk to, (are) very concerned about having a big fight at the convention. I don’t think that’s going to happen though, there’s going to be at some point in time, for a variety of reasons, a confluence of the will of the people, a lead in delegates, the so-called super delegates weighing in as well and I think it will be resolved before the convention."
"I think we can get through this stalemate," Casey said at another point, "but it’s not going to happen in the next two weeks, its going to take a while I think."
When Casey decided to endorse Obama many in the media (including me) recalled how poorly Casey’s father – the late Gov. Bob Casey Sr. – had been treated by then-Gov. Bill Clinton and those running the 1992 Democratic convention. Casey Sr. had wanted to give a speech promoting his views against abortion. Not only was he not allowed to do so, the Clinton forces made a show of rejecting him quite publicly, allowing to speak an abortion-rights Republican activist who had worked to defeat Casey in his re-election. To his dying day, Casey Sr. resented how he had been treated by the Clinton campaign.
"I think that there’s a strong consensus that that was a terrible mistake and should never have happened and I think that both sides know that now," Casey Jr. said. "But I do think when you’re talking about the question of who you’re going to support it does come down to whether you really have confidence, and more confidence in one candidate versus the other."
Listen to the full Podcast HERE.