Sen. Bob Casey has a much more reserved style than his father, the former governor of Pennsylvania.
Casey has other things to worry about.
In 2006, he defeated former Sen. Rick Santorum (R) by a whopping double-digit margin. Current polls show Casey with a similar lead, but local operatives don’t expect him to win by such a hefty number in November.
In his Russell building office, Sen. Ron Johnson’s doorway is just steps from Casey’s. The proximity serves as Casey’s constant reminder of just how quickly a campaign can go downhill against a deep-pocketed opponent.
Within a matter of six months in 2010, then-Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) watched his re-election prospects slip away as the result of Johnson’s ability to capitalize on voter angst and dissatisfaction with Congress. The Wisconsin Republican spent $8.9 million of his own money on the race and defeated Feingold by 5 points.
In November, Casey faces Tom Smith, a former coal company executive who spent $5 million on the GOP primary. And there’s more where that came from.
In a Wednesday interview, Smith estimated his race will cost $20 million but declined to say how much of that he will self-fund.
“In the very slight case that we can’t raise sufficient [funds], I will say this: That well of money is not near dry yet.”
Smith has met with Johnson, as well as freshman Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), a first-time candidate and successful businessman who won an Erie-based seat last cycle.
“Sen. Bob Casey has a famous name, political name in Pennsylvania. I concede that point,” Smith said. “But he is not his father, and he now has a voting record that he will need to defend.”
Compared with his father, Casey is much more of a team player in Democratic Party politics — a liability that might come back to haunt him if the president’s poll numbers don’t hold up in Pennsylvania.
His father never played the local or national political party game. In fact, Casey’s congenial leadership style couldn’t be more different from his forceful and hot-headed father.
The Senator’s older sister famously told the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2002 that her brother bought a mood ring in the 1970s and it “never changed color.” Former Lt. Gov. Mark Singel, who served under the elder Casey from 1987 to 1995, described a boss who was “able to disintegrate you with an icy stare-down if he had to.”
And unlike his son, the former governor made his opinions known even among his closest allies. During the health care debate of the early 1990s, Gov. Casey trekked to Washington, D.C., to persuade newly appointed Sen. Harris Wofford (D-Pa.), to vote for an anti-abortion-rights amendment. After a heated argument lasting more than an hour, the governor stated he could not support Wofford’s re-election bid against Santorum, who went on to win.
“I think Bob Casey the Senator is much more engaged with state party politics,” Singel said. “Bob Casey Jr. has the same capabilities and knowledge but has matured in his political persona so that he doesn’t have that kind of cold streak in him. He either doesn’t have it or has hidden it well.”