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Top One Magazine

Bob Casey takes significant steps towards a reelection bid

PHILADELPHIA — Senate Democrats are staring down a brutal electoral map in 2024 that puts them on defense in 23 states. But it appears virtually certain that at least one battle-tested senator is getting back in the saddle in a critical swing state: Bob Casey.

The Pennsylvania lawmaker has not yet announced whether he will seek a fourth term, but he has done everything short of that. Casey is quietly putting together a fully operating campaign-in-waiting. He is in deep discussions about who will serve as his national finance director and has settled on Tiernan Donohue to be his campaign manager. Donohue is an alum of Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s campaign and served as campaign manager for Pennsylvania Democrat Val Arkoosh’s unsuccessful bid for the Senate in 2022.

Casey has selected a “finance council” as well, which held its first meeting on Wednesday, and he has scheduled fundraisers, two Democrats familiar with the events told POLITICO.

Pennsylvania Democrats are treating him announcing another run as a mere formality.

“It’s great news for Pennsylvania Democrats that we don’t have to deal with a messy primary, and Casey has shown a consistent ability to overperform the Democratic baseline when he’s on the ballot in a general election,” said J.J. Balaban, a Pennsylvania-based Democratic strategist. “He has managed to hold on to some of the working-class voters in Pennsylvania that other Democrats have struggled to win.”

Still, questions hover over the Senator. The 62-year-old Casey has been gearing up for reelection as he recovers from an operation to treat prostate cancer, which he revealed in January he had been diagnosed with. Casey underwent surgery in February, and returned to the Senate later that month. His aides have said that the procedure went well and that he is not expected to need further treatment.

Though there was little doubt among Democrats that Casey would run for another term even amid his health scare, they have been heartened to see him take concrete steps toward finalizing another run. The Pennsylvania contest is poised to be one of the most expensive and closely watched races in the country. Casey is an institutional figure in the state who has won six statewide elections. During his last run, he defeated Republican Lou Barletta by double digits.

Because Casey is not expected to face a serious primary challenge, he should be free to pivot to the general election as soon as he launches his campaign. Republicans, on the other hand, are looking at the possibility of a contentious primary. Chastened by losses in last year’s midterm elections, the Senate GOP’s campaign arm is seeking to recruit former hedge fund CEO Dave McCormick. But Doug Mastriano, a MAGA-aligned state senator who lost Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial election last year by nearly 15 percentage points, is also eyeing a run.

Mastriano has already taken shots at McCormick, referring to him without naming him in a video on his Facebook page by saying that he has “money to throw around” but “it’s not going to be enough” because “moderate types can’t win either the primary or general election without the grassroots in Pennsylvania.” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, meanwhile, has criticized Mastriano, saying that his “last race demonstrated he can’t win a general.”

Democrats, fully aware of Mastriano’s massive loss in 2022, are openly rooting for Mastriano to make a bid for the Senate.

“I hope the good Lord answers Democrats’ prayers and tells Mastriano to run. Casey would beat him by double digits,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.). “But regardless of the GOP opponent, I think Casey is well-positioned and should be considered the favorite.”

Despite Casey’s enviable election record, the GOP sees an opening. National Republicans are planning to cast him as a self-dealer during the election, pointing to recent news that his brother has registered to lobby and his campaign paid his sister’s printing company.

“Whether Bob Casey is risking Pennsylvania workers’ pensions in Chinese investments or using his Senate seat to enrich his family, it’s clear he no longer has his voters’ best interests at heart,” said Philip Letsou, a spokesman for the NRSC.

Republicans have also argued that 2024 will be a different political environment than 2018, when Casey was last on the ballot, given that that was a challenging year for the GOP nationally and Barletta, Casey’s opponent, struggled to raise money.

Casey, meanwhile, is planning to campaign on delivering infrastructure spending, manufacturing jobs and clean energy reform to the state. While he has moved to the left on issues such as abortion and guns in recent years, he has made more recent moves tacking to the center. In March, he voted in favor of the GOP-backed bill that would overturn changes to the criminal code in Washington, D.C.

One potential challenge for Casey will be running alongside President Joe Biden, especially if inflation persists or, worse, a recession occurs. However, Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pa.) said she would be “very surprised” if Casey distanced himself from Biden.

“A lot has gotten done in the last couple of years. I fully expect Sen. Casey to run on those broad, sweeping things,” she said, adding that Casey’s reelection campaign is “inevitable” and “if you had told me he had already announced, I wouldn’t have been surprised by that.”

As of now, Casey has begun preparing big-money events for a possible bid. Jill Zipin, co-founder of Democratic Jewish Outreach PA, said her group has scheduled a fundraiser for Casey in the late spring or early summer “in support of his reelection.” At the end of last year, he had $3 million in the bank, according to campaign finance reports.

With Casey all but guaranteed to run for reelection, Democrats said their path to keeping the majority is slightly more doable. It will, said Balaban, “make it a little easier for Democrats nationally.”

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