Republicans question Casey's commitment

Republican strategists in Pennsylvania are questioning Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey Jr.’s commitment to completing a potential six-year term, noting that he has run for five public offices in the past nine years. The move is a counterattack to Casey’s recent criticism of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). The Hill last month reported that a media firm affiliated with Santorum had bought domain names suggesting that the senator was eyeing a 2008 presidential bid.

Republican strategists in Pennsylvania are questioning Democratic Senate candidate Bob Casey Jr.’s commitment to completing a potential six-year term, noting that he has run for five public offices in the past nine years.

The move is a counterattack to Casey’s recent criticism of Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). The Hill last month reported that a media firm affiliated with Santorum had bought domain names suggesting that the senator was eyeing a 2008 presidential bid. At the time, a Casey campaign spokesman said, “This is just more evidence that serving the people of Pennsylvania is not Rick Santorum’s top priority.”

But GOP operatives are attempting to turn the tables on Casey, saying his track record of running for public positions, getting elected (except for governor) and then announcing new campaign bids does not put him in a good position to throw stones.

Republicans note that, over the past nine years, Casey has run for auditor general twice, governor, treasurer and now senator. They have also resurrected Casey quotes in news articles that indicate his interest in becoming governor.

Less than a month before his election last year as treasurer, Casey told The Philadelphia Inquirer, “Sure, I want to be governor.”

Republicans say that Casey, the son of a former governor, has repeatedly expressed an interest in following in his father’s footsteps and could opt to run in 2010.

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D), who defeated Casey in the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary, has endorsed Casey for Senate. 

Josh Wilson, spokesman for the Republican State Committee of Pennsylvania, said, “For a career politician that has treated the state’s row offices as nothing more than a political parking lot for his future political ambitions, Bob Casey Jr. should be more concerned with his ability to perform the job he was elected to while he runs for U.S. Senate.”

Democrats say that the GOP’s aggressiveness on Casey is revealing.

“The larger issue here is that when a two-term senator is trying to engage his opponent 18 months [before the election], it’s a clear sign they are in trouble,” said Casey’s campaign manager, Jay Reiff. “They’re desperate. They’re floundering.”

A recent Quinnipiac poll found that Casey has a 14-point lead over Santorum.

Questions about Senate candidates’ completing their terms are likely to surface at the local level, not from Democrats and Republicans in Washington. The Republican and Democratic senatorial campaign committees will probably not touch the issue because there are incumbents up for reelection in 2006 who have not ruled out a White House bid in 2008, including Santorum and Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and George Allen (R-Va.).

The Casey-Santorum race is expected to be one of the most intense races in 2006, with many political observers predicting it will get ugly.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) is claiming that Santorum has “ethics issues,” raising questions about a Santorum fundraiser at an Outback Steakhouse after “blocking higher minimum pay for restaurant workers,” which the DSCC describes as Outback’s “pet issue.”

Santorum has introduced legislation that would have lifted the minimum wage, while voting against Sen. Edward Kennedy’s (D-Mass.) bill that would have increased the minimum wage more substantially than Santorum’s measure. The Senate rejected both bills earlier this year.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has been portraying Casey as a Democratic “yes man” and claiming that he needs “additional schooling” on the Senate’s judicial nomination process.

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