Friday, March 28, 2008

Casey at the bat, and the brushback pitch

Big story this morning, broken by one of my colleagues: Senator Bob Casey, the ever-cautious Democratic centrist whose surname is golden among white Catholic working-class Pennsylvanians, is endorsing Barack Obama today. It's a surprise, because Casey (also a superdelegate) was expected to hang back during the runup to the April 22 primary. Theoretically, Casey will help Obama with the voters whom Obama needs most.

Endorsements don't always translate into votes, of course, and maybe Casey's nod won't make any difference in the end. Nevertheless, we can expect Hillary Clinton's message practitioners to lurch into characteristic overdrive today, maybe like this...

11:30 a.m., from the spin shop: "Senator Clinton does not need a lecture from Bob Casey about how to reach the hardworking Pennsylvanians who in four weeks will launch her on the road to a party-unifying victory at the Democratic convention. This race is ultimately about the candidates, not about endorsements. Endorsements are not important. We are pleased that Gov. Rendell and congressman John Murtha have endorsed us, and we are confident that the voters will note that importance."

1 p.m., from the spin shop: "Bob Casey lost to Ed Rendell in the 2002 gubernatorial primary, and now he is seeking to avenge his defeat by breaking ranks with the popular governor. It is regrettable that, at a time when Senator Clinton is enjoying unstoppable momentum, Bob Casey is reduced to playing partisan political games."

2 p.m., from the spin shop: "Some may suggest today that Bob Casey is attempting to settle an old score with the Clintons, by endorsing Senator Obama. Some may suggest that this endorsement is just petty payback for what happened at Bill Clinton's 1992 Democratic convention, when Casey's father, the governor of Pennsylvania, was barred from speaking because of his anti-abortion views. But today Bob Casey is not engaging in this kind of petty payback, as far as we know."

3 p.m., from the spin shop: "All endorsements by first-term senators of any state with more than 20 electoral votes, tendered before voters get the opportunity to exercise their democratic rights, should be considered automatically illegitimate. And any presidential candidate with a gift for pretty speechmaking who accepts such endorsements should be considered illegitimate."

4 p.m., an open letter to Bob Casey, from prominent donors to the Clinton campaign: "We have long been strong supporters of Democratic senatorial candidates. We request that you re-clarify your position on the Pennsylvania primary, that you keep an open mind, and that you show respect for the electoral process. If you prefer instead to disenfranchise Pennsylvania voters, we have no choice but to remember that you are up for re-election in four years. We have warned House Speaker Pelosi about the consequences of opposing Senator Clinton, and now we are warning you."

5 p.m., a special message from James Carville: "Bob Casey is Judas. Sold her out for a money bag and a fistful of silver. Not tryin’ to say that he’s a turncoat betrayer or that she’s the same as Jesus Christ, but there ya go."

6 p.m., a special message from Bill Clinton: "There's no good reason for male bullies to gang up on a girl who loves this country. Senator McCain, I know he also loves this country. I think it's a shame that others would try to disrupt an election between these two candidates who at least do love this country."

6:10 p.m., from a media availability with Hillary Clinton: "Rev. Wright, Florida. Rev. Wright, Michigan. Rev. Wright, Rev. Wright, Rev. Wright."

6:11 p.m., during a spin shop conference call with reporters: "We also think it's important to remember that Bob Casey hails from a famous political family, and, while we want to underscore our belief that this endorsement is no big deal, we do think that it shows what can happen when a political dynasty presumes to throw its weight around...(long pause)...OK, we'd like to rephrase that."