U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said his re-election campaign is about whether voters want an independent voice in Washington or what he calls the radical agenda of his opponent that he believes will lead to deeper legislative gridlock.
Casey, 52, a Democrat from Scranton, said he is trying to work across the aisle to get the economy back on track and do what‚??s best for the country, while his opponent Tom Smith is a Tea Party founder who favors much of that group‚??s ideology.
As in 2006 when he ran against Sen. Rick Santorum, Casey will likely be outspent by his Republican opponent. Unlike 2006, it will be because his opponent is sinking more than $17 million of his own money into the race.
The fundraising disparity is something Casey doesn‚??t discount, but he knows that spending the most doesn‚??t equate to victory. Just ask Santorum, who lost by 18 percentage points. That‚??s a differential Casey is not anticipating this time around.
‚??In this state, a win of 51-49 would be a really good day,‚?Ě Casey said.
Casey doesn‚??t deny that Smith, a former coal company owner from Armstrong County, has the right to pour his own money into the race. But he acknowledged it‚??s making his campaign more difficult.
‚??I have to work a lot harder than my opponent to get the resources to be able to advertise. And if you can‚??t advertise you‚??re going to lose,‚?Ě Casey said. ‚??So we have to spend most of our campaign time on fundraising. If you‚??re not spending 70 to 80 percent of your time raising money you‚??re not going to win. That‚??s just the harsh reality of politics.‚?Ě
He said he‚??d prefer to be crisscrossing the state shaking hands, meeting voters and talking about his record.
‚??Unless someone can come up with a different system, unless you have extraordinary personal wealth like my opponent does you‚??ve got to work, you‚??ve got to have hundreds of events to raise money,‚?Ě he said.
But Casey has something that may be worth more than money: name recognition.
The Casey name is well-known in Pennsylvania. The senator‚??s late father of the same name served as governor and the senator was elected to two state row offices ‚?? auditor general and treasurer -- prior to his serving in the Senate. But name alone is something Casey can‚??t run on.
Instead he‚??s using a combination of his own track record and his opponent‚??s ideology to garner votes. And he‚??s having to combat an advertising barrage the Smith campaign rolled out early and often accusing Casey of inaction in Washington and dubbing him ‚??Senator Zero.‚?Ě
It‚??s a claim Casey is well aware of and bluntly disagrees with.
‚??I think that charge is a lie, there‚??s no question about that. I think voters are starting to understand that better the more they look at both of us,‚?Ě Casey said.
While many of his bills have been merged with others and then approved, he considers the outcome what‚??s important, not whether his name is listed as the primary sponsor.
‚??I‚??d rather focus on the result,‚?Ě he said. And those results have included getting federal dollars sent to Northeastern Pennsylvania to aid in recovery after last fall‚??s devastating floods. He also authored two amendments to the federal health care act that were approved as part of the final law.
One establishes a 10-year, $250 million competitive grant program that‚??s designed to help pregnant and parenting teens and women complete their education and gain access to health care, child care, family housing and other critical support.
The other extends the adoption tax credit, which was set to expire in 2010, through 2019. It also increases it from $10,000 to $15,000 and makes it tax refundable.
He said those amendments go hand-in-hand with his stance as a pro-life Democrat.
‚??I‚??ve been a supporter of family planning,‚?Ě Casey said, noting he‚??s long supported dollars for contraception, which he said reduces the demand for unwanted pregnancies and abortions, which he‚??s opposed to except in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother being at risk.
Casey said he takes issue with Smith‚??s ‚??Tea Party agenda.‚?Ě
‚??The last thing we need in Washington is more ideology ‚?Ľ you can‚??t have a harsh ideology,‚?Ě Casey said. ‚??To say you can just slash the federal government in half and not have new revenue ‚?Ľ is irrational. The math doesn‚??t work.‚?Ě
While the money issue can be traced to Smith‚??s hefty bank account, what has some political pundits more concerned is Casey‚??s barely over 50 percent favorability ratings in recent polls.
Casey, for his part, says that‚??s the result of the state‚??s size and makeup and his commitment to make nearly all his votes (he estimated he‚??s missed only seven out of a few thousand votes in his nearly six years).
‚??It‚??s a big state with 12 ¬Ĺ million people and a lot of complexity and diversity to it. When you do the job that I have, most of your week ... if you want to vote, you have to be in Washington basically four days a week. That cuts down on the time you‚??re on the ground. That diminishes the opportunity you have to see people more directly. I guess you can err on that side and chose to miss hundreds of votes but I‚??ve chosen not to do that. People sent me there to vote.‚?Ě
He said it‚??s also part of being an incumbent during a poor economy and at a time when the approval rating for Congress as a whole is at 10 percent.
‚??In a tough economy you still have a lot of people that are struggling. ‚?Ľ If you‚??re an incumbent you‚??ve got a tough set of circumstances,‚?Ě Casey said.
Occupation: U.S. senator
Education: BA from College of the Holy Cross and a JD from The Catholic University of America
Religion: Roman Catholic
Family: Wife, Terese; four daughters, Elyse, Caroline, Julia and Marena.
There are two senators from each state that serve in the U.S. Senate. The seat is up for election every six years and was previously held by Rick Santorum, Harris Wofford and John Heinz, among others. The second seat is currently held by Pat Toomey, a Republican from Zionsville who began serving in 2010.
‚??It‚??s not only a threat in the region and to our ally Israel but it‚??s also bad for us. The last thing we need is a nuclear armed Iran. We have to exhaust every non-military tool we have,‚?Ě Casey said. He noted that sanctions are ‚??having a tremendous affect.‚?Ě
Affordable Care Act
Voted in favor, though he was able to get two amendments into the final package of bills to encourage family planning and fund it. He said there are some parts that need to be tweaked but overall it‚??s a good law that will enable millions of Americans to receive health care. He chided anyone who says they‚??d repeal the law and said allowing insurance companies to deny services for those with pre-existing conditions is an abomination.
Casey voted against recently approved trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia, bucking many fellow senators, including Democrats, and the president. He said it‚??s another example of how he‚??s ‚??an independent voice for Pennsylvania.‚?Ě He said the state seemed ‚??to be getting the short end of the stick‚?Ě in the deals so he didn‚??t support them.
‚??I‚??ve been a supporter of family planning,‚?Ě Casey said, noting he‚??s long supported dollars for contraception, which he said reduces the need for unwanted pregnancies and abortions, which he‚??s opposed to except in cases of rape, incest or the health of the mother being at risk.
Casey supports natural gas drilling and sees it as a way to reduce the nation‚??s dependence on foreign oil. He sees it as a job creator, an economic stimulator and a tax generator for the state. He doesn‚??t believe the Pennsylvania extraction tax on the books was high enough, however. ‚??I think we could have derived more revenue there,‚?Ě he said.
He has been a strong critic of unfair trade policies that he contends put American manufacturing at a disadvantage. He has repeatedly pushed for the U.S. government to take stronger action against China in response to the undervaluing of its currency and other policies that result in American job loss. He joined a bipartisan group of senators in sending a letter to President Obama calling for stronger action on behalf of U.S. businesses and workers competing against unfair trade practices conducted abroad, particularly the manipulation of currency by the Chinese government to unfairly boost exports. He also signed a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner calling on him to list China as a currency manipulator.