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Casey called 'Senator Zero'

| Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, 5:05 p.m.

CHARLOTTE

Political pros on both sides of the aisle say Robert P. Casey Jr. is hard to beat because he is genuinely a nice guy, ethical and has a golden name in Pennsylvania politics. That's all true.

But the namesake of a former governor tends to be liberal, frequently voting in agreement with his friend President Obama. In the year leading up to re-election he cast himself as “independent” and voted sometimes against party wishes. In the Casey family mold, he is pro-life.

At the Democratic National Convention last week you might have missed him. He headed the state's delegation and was front and center on the floor. There was no speaking role for the state's senior senator. But U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz got one. So did Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

It defies logic to think Casey, if asked, would have turned down a speaking spot. It defies logic to think a guy who shoots hoops with Obama would not have been asked. It defies credulity to think if Casey asked, Obama would have said no.

But Casey said he didn't speak because he was too busy heading the Pennsylvania delegation. Even though Obama is now leading the polls in Pennsylvania, it appears that Casey wants to distance himself from the president.

Obama might be winning in some parts of the state, like Western Pennsylvania. But campaigning with Obama could be toxic. And why play into the hands of longshot GOP challenger Tom Smith, who is self-funding his campaign and continually links Obama and Casey?

One person close to Casey suggests maybe there was no convention speech because he's not a good speaker. Indeed, it's a wonder the drab and boring Casey was elected to anything. He went only slightly above his usual monotone delivery in complaining to the state delegation about how Republicans plan to dismantle Medicare. He even raised his voice a little.

But it appears that Casey is running from Obama and that he pivoted in Washington so he could not be labeled a 100 percent Obama and party supporter.

That's politics, of course. And in deciding between Casey and Smith, a self-made coal executive who began as a miner, one should consider their stands on issues. Democrats lambaste Smith for being a tea partyer. Thousands of voters would see that connection as a plus.

Smith rips Casey as “Senator Zero” for not getting a single bill passed. Casey shrugs it off.

I would love to have heard the conversation between Casey and Obama where Casey might have told the prez, “I'm with you all the way, but I can't get out front.”

Think that happened?

Brad Bumsted is the state Capitol reporter for Trib Total Media (717-787-1405 or bbumsted@tribweb.com).

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