The phrase “Republicans pounce” has become a punchline in GOP circles, mocking the media’s less-than-evenhanded political coverage. But in the case of the party’s reaction to Democrat U.S. Sen. Bob Casey’s re-election announcement, “pounce” appears to be the right word.

Within hours of Casey’s announcement Monday that he will seek a fourth term in 2024, the National Republican Senatorial Committee was in attack mode.

“From risking Pennsylvania workers’ pensions in Chinese state-run companies to using his Senate seat to enrich his family, Bob Casey has made a career of shady self-dealing and selling his voters out to the highest bidder,” said NRSC spokesman Philip Letsou.

On Tuesday, the NRSC was already up with an ad targeting Casey on social media.

“Bob Casey stopped putting Pennsylvanians first a long time ago,” Letsou said with the release of the NRSC’s ad.


The NRSC has been hammering Casey in the months leading up to his re-election announcement, accusing him of “betraying Pennsylvania farmers” and claiming that he “oversaw multi-million dollar investment from state pension fund into [a Chinese Communist Party]-linked company.”

Political observers say it could be a sign that the GOP believes the path to a new Republican Senate majority goes through Pennsylvania. The 2024 cycle includes several Senate Democrats running in states former President Donald Trump carried in 2020, most notably Sen. Joe Manchin in West Virginia and Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. However, both are popular incumbents who may be difficult to beat. Could Casey — a one-time moderate who has been out of step with his own party — offer an attractive target for a Republican Party that needs to net a two-seat pickup to win back the Senate?

The NRSC did not respond to a request for comment. However, Christopher Nicholas, a veteran Republican political consultant and the principal of Eagle Consulting Group, Inc., in Harrisburg, speculated that “the NRSC, like a lot of Republicans, is tired of losing.”

“They have come to the same conclusion that most people have, that the reason they lost some of these seats is because they did not have the best candidates available,” Nicholas said.

He pointed out Pennsylvania’s Senate elections are staggered back to back. “After this, we don’t have another one until 2028,” he said. “I think a lot of people here, especially on the GOP side, are even more committed to beating Casey since now we have two Democratic senators.”

By most measures, Casey looks well-positioned for the next election. He won two out of his three first-election contests with double-digit margins; he is the only Democratic senator to win an election three times in the state. This is the first time Democrats have controlled both of the state’s Senate seats since the 1940s.

National Republican operatives are doubtlessly hoping to patch their wounds from the bruising 2022 elections, which analysts had predicted would be a resounding Republican success but which ended up with Democrats vastly outperforming historical projections.

Among the most surprising upsets was the flipping of retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey’s seat, replaced by Democrat John Fetterman. Trump-backed candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz lost to Fetterman by five percentage points.

That victory helped Democrats secure an outright majority in the Senate, their first since 2015, and a pointed victory for President Joe Biden.

Pennsylvania is still considered a swing state by most analysts. A recent Commonwealth Foundation poll showed lopsided disapproval ratings for Biden in the state, potentially leaving Casey with the albatross of Biden’s record around his neck come November 2024.

At the same time, Pennsylvania Democratic strategist Mike Mikus told the Washington Examiner he believes Casey is a stronger candidate than some realize. “I think a lot of people forget that Sen. Casey tends to do a lot better than the average Democrat in many of the rural counties in Pennsylvania. He may not win them, but he does better than the average Democrat, and that’s where I think lies his greatest strength. He’s able to overperform in some pretty tough areas, in many areas that delivered Trump in 2016.”

Nicholas argued Casey “hasn’t spent one day on the campaign trail worried about whether he’s going to win or not.” He pointed to the historic Democratic cycles in 2006 and 2018, both of which saw Casey ride to victory.

He also noted Casey had drifted leftward since his start in national politics, transforming from “a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat” into a candidate much more in line with present Democratic orthodoxy. “Democrats have gotten over their queasiness with them,” he said.

Still, Nicholas said, a potentially bruising election contest with a popular candidate could lead to an upset next November.

“Because he’s never spent one day worrying, politically — does Casey have a glass jaw?” he said. “We don’t know.”

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