In case you missed it — which you easily could have, with the Thanksgiving holiday and attendant travel, eating, drinking and such — Bob Casey says he might run for president.
Yep. Our Bob Casey. Former state auditor general, former state treasurer, current U.S. senator, firstborn son of the late Gov. Bob Casey.
And where'd this come from?
Anywho, he's in the mix — with no fanfare and little notice.
The week after his reelection to a third six-year term, having easily dispatched GOP opponent Lou Barletta, Casey was asked by NBC News if he plans to run for president in 2020.
He didn't say no. He said, "We'll see what happens."
That didn't exactly set off fireworks across the national (or even state) landscape. So, Casey upped the ante.
Last week in Scranton, he told a local TV station he has "an obligation" to consider running.
Interesting choice of words. Here's the context.
"Because of what's at stake for our country, because of what's ahead of us, anyone who can win a statewide election, I've won three Senate races in Pennsylvania, I think I have an obligation to consider it. …We have to make sure the nominee of the Democratic Party wins Pennsylvania, because you cannot get elected president if you cannot win Pennsylvania. I've shown I can do that. I've won by an average of 13 points over three elections, so it's something I'm considering."
OK, a little disjointed. And sometimes you cannot get elected president if you do win Pennsylvania. Just ask Al Gore or John Kerry. But I get what Casey's saying. He's running for vice president.
The idea of Democrats nominating an antiabortion presidential candidate, even one less antiabortion (if there is such a thing) than when he first was elected to the Senate in 2006, seems more than a tad far-fetched.
Plus, given a growing field of candidates (current count's around three dozen), many with a national base and access to major funding, a Casey play for the top of the ticket is, as one of his longtime allies put it, "just like playing the lottery."
But. One could make a case. Abortion does not define Sen. Casey in ways it defined Gov. Casey. Sen. Casey, though an opponent of Roe v. Wade, doesn't openly push for its overthrow, and has a 75 percent Planned Parenthood rating. So, the bottom half of the ticket maybe isn't an impossibility.
St. Joseph's University adjunct poli-sci prof Joe Powers, who spent a career in Pennsylvania government and politics, suggests Casey is similar to fellow Scranton native Joe Biden. If Biden is not the presidential nominee, Casey can appeal to the same middle- and working-class demographic Biden does – a demographic critical to Democratic hopes.
"If I was running a presidential campaign and Casey was the VP candidate," says Powers, "I'd have him in Big 10 states — Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan — talking economic issues."
In other words, boost Democratic turnout in a region critical to Trump's 2016 win.
Others argue Casey is scandal-free, pragmatic, viewed as decent and likable, if not inspirational. And perhaps the country's ready for a milder brand of politics.
A Democratic campaign adviser with clients throughout the country (but no connection to Casey) says "there's no chance" the 2020 ticket is two white men. So, if a woman or person of color heads the ticket, Casey, based on his electoral record in a key state, could end up vetted for VP.
Ah, but Democrats, as always, have internal snags. Direction of the party, old vs. new, left vs. lefter, progressive, moderate, socialist, whatever. And abortion rights remains as much a litmus test on the left as on the right.
That's a problem for Casey, says Rebecca Katz, a Philly native with strong national Democratic ties, a partner at New York-based Hilltop Public Solutions, a progressive campaign group.
When I ask if Casey for VP helps Democrats, Katz says, "No. You know what's not going to help Dems turn out in 2020? An anti-choice white male political legacy."