Sen. Casey of Pennsylvania endorses Sen. Obama in advance of April 22 Democratic primary

The Casey Endorsement

By Katharine Q. Seelye 

Source: The New York Times

March 28, 2008, 11:11 am  

In a surprise move, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has endorsed Senator Barack Obama in advance of the April 22 Democratic primary. Mr. Casey had said he would remain neutral in the race in part because he wanted to help broker a reconciliation between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton afterward.“I believe in my heart that there is one person who’s uniquely qualified to lead us in that new direction and that is Barack Obama.” Mr. Casey said during a rally in Pittsburgh Friday.

Mr. Casey is going against the grain in his state, where polls show Mrs. Clinton ahead by at least 12 percentage points and where she has the endorsement of most of the state’s major Democratic figures.But a person close to Mr. Casey said that the Senator had traveled to Florida over Easter and that rain had forced him to stay inside and he began to think more seriously about an endorsement. “He spent a lot of time thinking about it,” this person said, and he came to the conclusion that the race was “too important” to remain on the sidelines.“He was asking himself, what’s more important than this?” the person said. “He was also just terribly frustrated with where Bush is going on Iraq and the economy and he felt he had to jump into the fray.”Mr. Casey called both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton last night. He could not reach Mrs. Clinton, but she was made aware of his move, friends said. He is joining Mr. Obama today as he begins a six-day bus trip across Pennsylvania and plans to be with him for about three days as Mr. Obama meets up with just the kind of blue collar, Catholic men who have eluded Mr. Obama.

Mr. Casey won the state in 2006 with 59 percent of the vote. The fact that he is a strong opponent of abortion rights may give these voters cover to back Mr. Obama both now and in the fall against Senator John McCain, the putative Republican nominee, who also opposes abortion rights.

Both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama had raised money and campaigned for Mr. Casey when he ran for the Senate in 2006. Both also initially lobbied Mr. Casey themselves, and then through third parties, but they retreated after they understood that he wanted to remain neutral.

Mr. Casey decided to back Mr. Obama because of his “ability to bring disparate groups together and transcend some of these racial and other kinds of divides,” the person close to him said. “Also, his kids were on his case, his four daughters. Not that they dictate to him, but he was paying attention. He was wondering, why are these kids, who aren’t very political, so interested? He does have the ability to light up a younger generation.”

Mr. Casey’s father, the state’s former governor, had a chilly relationship with Mrs. Clinton’s husband dating from Mr. Clinton’s first campaign for president in 1992. The elder Mr. Casey was strongly against abortion rights and did not approve of Mr. Clinton, who in turn shut Mr. Casey out of the Democratic convention. Another long-time Casey ally said that during the 1992 campaign, Mr. Casey refused to attend a dinner in his home county, Lackawanna, where Mrs. Clinton was campaigning for her husband. On election night in 1992, Mrs. Clinton closely tracked the results in Lackawanna, which her husband won.

But several people who know Mr. Casey and Mrs. Clinton say that the family bitterness has dissipated and was not a factor at all in Mr. Casey’s endorsement of Mr. Obama.There is also some family warmth between Mr. Obama and the Casey family. At an event on St. Patrick’s Day in Scranton, Mr. Obama gave a shout-out to “my wonderful friend” Margie Casey McGrath, who is Mr. Casey’s sister and runs a big printing company, Universal Printing, in Scranton. The company prints numerous political material for candidates, including Mr. Obama.


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