Senator: Obama Can Win Pa. In November
Trader Jason Harper works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange Friday, June 1, 2012. Stocks fell sharply Friday after the release of a dismal report on job creation in the United States. The Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 200 points, erasing what was left of its gain for the year. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) / Richard Drew
CBSNews.com: The Obama campaign is spending something like $2.2 million a week on TV in your home state, which some people say is just unheard of. Is it reasonable for them to say, on the one hand, we're spending record amounts--and on the other hand, we can't win?
Sen. Bob Casey: (LAUGHS) Well, I think in our Senate race, there were several weeks we were spending at that level. But no, it's a lot of money. Here's the differential. President Clinton and Senator Clinton have been campaigning in Pennsylvania for many years, 15 years, really. So, I think it's difficult to make up for that in a number of weeks, when you talk about 15 years.
In the end, he may outspend Senator Clinton on television. But there does reach a point where the volume begins to level off. In other words, you spend at a certain level and the law of diminishing returns begins to kick in. But I think it'll be a spirited contest. I don't know what the result will be. I think he can make progress.
But he is clearly and definitively the underdog, and remains that way in Pennsylvania. But I do think his message of hope and of change and a message that's based upon honesty and tackling the special interests isn't just a message for a campaign. He's already proving that he can be a different kind of president, because he's already broken the grip of special interests and fundraising. He doesn't need them. He's been able to fund his campaign with contributions largely from people that don't have a lot of power, and are sending him $10 or $20 or $50 or $100.
CBSNews.com: Well, let me ask you about those contributions because that's become a campaign issue between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton. Clinton claims that Obama's being disingenuous when he says in one of his ads that he doesn't take any money from oil companies, because he does take money from oil company executives. And obviously, companies can't give money to a campaign in any event. They're urging him to take down that ad. What's your view on that?
Sen. Bob Casey: Well, look, I'm not the spokesman for ad content. I'm a public official in Pennsylvania. I'm a senator. And I support Senator Obama strongly--principally, because I think when I look at what our state confronts, our biggest problems ahead of us in terms of workforce, in terms of keeping young people in Pennsylvania, building an economy, the concern that I and others have about foreign affairs, I think Senator Obama's got the ability and already demonstrated the leadership skills to be the kind of leader that can bring the country together and bring the world together.
CBSNews.com: Let me ask you about some Senate-related issues, some votes. Their records are so similar but the Clinton campaign always points to the vote in 2005 to confirm General Casey as Army Chief of Staff--Senator Obama was for that, and Senator Clinton was opposed.
And also in 2005, there was an energy bill that the Clinton campaign calls "Dick Cheney's energy bill" that Senator Obama was for, Senator Clinton was against. You obviously weren't in the Senate at that point. But what's your view on those two issues?
Sen. Bob Casey: I think when it comes to making a determination about who should be in charge of a sector of our military operations, you make that assessment based upon a lot of factors. I don't think there's, you know, a Democratic way to vote when you make that decision. I don't think there's a liberal or conservative way to vote. You make a determination about the person's character, their ability, their experience. And you can have two liberal Democrats come to different conclusions.
I think on the energy bill, I'll just tell you, when I was campaigning, I was very troubled by, in particular, the giveaways to energy interests. And so, I mean, you could probably vote for that bill and still be troubled by those tax provisions. But I think we still have to do a lot of work to make up for some of those giveaways in that bill.
I mean, I'm speaking from my own point of view. You'd have to ask Senator Obama directly about what he thought about the bill. But I think there are a lot of people that were frustrated, not just with that energy bill in '05, but even in 2007 when Democrats were trying to do a lot more with tax incentives to put us on a path to reducing our dependence on foreign oil, to really incentivizing alternative energy sources. And Republicans blocked it.
CBSNews.com: The Colombia trade deal sparked a lot of controversy and led, in part, to the demotion of Hillary Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn. What, in your view, is wrong with the Colombia trade deal?
Sen. Bob Casey: I think there are two overarching problems with it. And this is from my point of view. Number one is, it doesn't do near enough to provide the kind of protections and level the playing field provisions that I think are essential: worker protections, human rights, the environment, all of the things that you've heard over and over again that are deficiencies in our trade agreements.
But the other problem with Colombia--and in my judgment, Peru, and a lot of Democrats voted for that agreement and I didn't--is that they have not been compared to, or measured against, a trade policy. We don't have a trade policy in the United States of America.
We haven't had one, recent memory. And until we have a policy in place, we're just going to have these continuing fights within the Democratic party and between Democrats and Republicans, about individual deals. We have big fights. One side wins, one side loses. Then we wait for the next deal to come down the pike where we vote. We need a policy. And I think Senator Obama is someone who not only understands that, but I think would show the kind of leadership that we need.
CBSNews.com: What do you think distinguishes the styles of leadership of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama?
Sen. Bob Casey: I can just tell you what I think of Senator Obama. I've been around politics for a quarter century. I've been an elected official for 11 years now. I've rarely, if ever, seen someone who's able to connect with people like he can, and connect meaning communicate with voters directly, whether it's been a rope line, or a diner or in a town meeting--and also connect with and communicate with public officials, people with big egos, people that have agendas, people that are hot-tempered.
And he's able to connect with them in a very human way and in a way that I think that is extraordinarily important for leadership. Because I think often in these campaigns, we think of these candidates as composites of issue positions and policy papers. They're human beings.
Just think about what the next president's going to be confronting, just staggering problems that few presidents in American history are confronting: climate change, a war, a divided world, a divided country, recession, a colossal problem with regard to our health care system and 47 million people uninsured, a $10 trillion debt.
And the old way or the usual way, the Democratic way, is just not going to do it. And I think he's already demonstrated a new kind of leadership and a new kind of politics that we're going to need to confront those problems.
CBSNews.com: Your former rival for the governorship, Ed Rendell, argues that the most important thing is electing a Democratic president, and Senator Clinton is demonstrably more electable in the key battleground states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida based on a number of polls that he cites. What's your response to that?
Sen. Bob Casey: Well, Governor Rendell is not only a friend of mine, but we supported each other even though we had a tough battle in 2002. And he won that race by a big margin. (LAUGHTER) I remember it well. It was kind of an interesting result. He won by 12 percentage points. But I carried 57 counties, he carried ten. So, it's a good lesson that you can get a lot out of a small number of counties.
I think he's been a great governor. I think we have a fundamental disagreement, not just on the issue of the person you support in the primary, but we have a fundamental disagreement about the general election.
I'm not an expert on general elections nationally. But I think I'm a bit of an expert on general elections in Pennsylvania. I've won four, and I've won two out of three primaries. And I do think that if you can win the general election in Pennsylvania, you can be the president.
I think Senator Obama can run a very strong and effective general election and a winning campaign against Senator McCain. I think Senator Clinton could, as well. Let me just give you a thumbnail sketch of a general election. He would do extraordinarily well in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia suburbs. He'll do well in Northeastern Pennsylvania where I live and I've worked for years. He'll do at least as well as Democrats have done in the past in Central Pennsylvania which is a vast area which is predominantly Republican. I think he can cut into that or at least get the usual Democratic vote.
I think he'll do very well in the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, which is most of Western Pennsylvania. So, I don't see where a Republican comes up with the formula to beat him.
If our nominee wins Pennsylvania, they're going to be the president, in my judgment. So, I have a lot of confidence in him, just as I have confidence in Senator Clinton. These are two transcendent figures. In other words, the usual rules don't apply to them. The usual rule of an African-American candidate doesn't apply in terms of their ability to attract general election support, and the usual formula that would normally apply to Senator Clinton as the first woman to be a nominee if she is, doesn't apply. They have the ability to go above and transcend the usual rules.
And I think they're both very strong general election candidates. I do think that Senator Obama has more potential to win a mandate and to win more convincingly. But even more important than that, I think he has the ability and has already demonstrated the capacity to be a very strong and effective and bipartisan president.
By Brian Goldsmith
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