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Casey Navigating Obama Relationship

Democrats counter that the Casey name (his father served as governor, and Casey himself has also served as state auditor and treasurer) is strong, and in northeast Pennsylvania, voters know him independently of the national party. "They grew up with him. Who he stands with on a stage isn't going to define who he is to them," said Democratic strategist Mark Nevins. But Republicans are honing in on reminding voters that Casey has supported much of Obama's agenda. Businessman Steve Welch, a Republican running against Casey, released an almost six minute web video earlier this week tying Obama to Casey. "It's interesting what a difference almost four years makes, where the big announcement when the president was in the midst of his primary was a big secret announcement where he showed up with Sen. Casey in Scranton. Three and a half, almost four years later, apparently the senator is trying to run away from that relationship," said GOP strategist Brian Nutt, who is working for Welch. Obama lost by ten percent in Pennsylvania -- 55 percent to 45 percent -- to now-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary. Clinton dominated in Lackawanna County -- where Scranton is located -- winning nearly 74 percent of the vote. But in the general election, it was Obama who was the victor in the Keystone state. He defeated Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., 54 percent to 44 percent. En route to victory, he won nearly 63 percent of the vote in Lackawanna County, reversing his fortunes from the primary. But his diminished standing in the state coupled with rough unemployment figures are causes for concern for the White House -- especially in the blue collar areas in northeast Pennsylvania. For Casey, the region is also very important. Party strategists note that if a Democratic candidate can do well in the northeast, win the Philadelphia suburbs and run roughly even in the areas around Pittsburgh, it's good news for their chances of victory. "For Sen. Casey, Scranton is going to be important, because not only is it his home base, but it is also a key part of that road map to victory for a Democratic candidate in a general election," said Nevins. For Casey, there is a twofold silver lining, statewide. First, his numbers have been a bit better than Obama's -- a September Quinnipiac poll showed his approval rating stood at 46 percent, with a 48 percent plurality saying he deserves be reelected. Not ideal numbers, but not horrible, either. Second, no Republican challenger perceived as a major threat has surfaced in the race yet. It will be a useful exercise to continue to watch how Casey and other Democratic senators up for reelection in 2012 navigate their interactions with the president. For Casey, Pennsylvania's presidential swing state status means that there will be many more opportunities to appear alongside Obama in the coming months. There will be times when votes or other scheduling issues won't prevent him from appearing with Obama, and when such opportunities present themselves, opponents will be waiting to pounce -- whether Casey shows up or not.

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