Can the GOP Gain Senate Seats in States Trump Won? Preliminary Analysis of Bob Casey By Luke Perry and Paul Joyce
The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research has been analyzing Democratic Senators up for reelection in 2018 from states that Trump won in 2016. Thus far we have found that Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) are not as vulnerable as they seem on the surface, due to their moderate streaks and their abilities to navigate the Trump presidency. We now move to Pennsylvania to analyze Bob Casey.
Donald Trump won Pennsylvania by less than one percent. Republican Senator Pat Toomey narrowly won reelection by just over one percent. This suggests the state moved to the right in 2016, but the questions remains if and how this carries over to 2018.
Pennsylvania politics runs in the Casey family. Bob Casey Sr. was state senator and auditor general before being elected governor. Bob Casey Jr. became the state’s auditor general in 1997 and then state treasurer in 2005. Casey was elected to the Senate in the 2006 wave election, defeating incumbent Rick Santorum with 59 percent of the vote, and was reelected in 2012 with 54 percent of the vote.
Casey has a moderate streak. He is pro-life, pro-firearm, and has been vocal about his Catholic faith. At the same time, Casey has been a Trump critic, voting in line with the president just 27 percent of the time and opposing his signature accomplishment, the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The New York Times has gone so far as to write that Casey was an “understated Senator” until Trump. Casey described the firing of James Comey as “Nixonian” and immediately called for a special counsel focused on Russia.
Casey encouraged Americans throughout the country to call their Senators and press them to vote against GOP efforts to repeal and replace The Affordable Care Act. Casey was concerned about proposed Medicaid cuts and resulting decreases in insurance coverage.
President Trump’s popularity is evenly divided between: 1) states where it exceeds 50 percent (17 states); 2) falls below 40 percent (17 states); and 3) lies in between (16 states). Pennsylvania is in the middle category with a presidential approval rating between 40 and 49 percent.
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball describes the GOP’s ability to take the seat as “a long shot.” Both Sabato and The Cook Political Report classify it as “likely Democratic.” There is no reason to suggest otherwise at this point, except that the last election cycle proved there are no sure victories for Democrats in the Midwest.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College. His column Sound Off! critiques various aspects of presidential politics.
Paul Joyce (PJoyce_13) is an MPA candidate at the University of Albany.