I knew he didn't have a lot of time so I wanted to make sure the first question was something interesting, so I worked it over for the last few days and came up with something that went like:
Pundits from across the state have been saying that no matter what the polls look like, it's going to be a close race. Given that, and given the fact that Bob Casey is not from (and this was not meant as a criticism) the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, what is he doing, or planning on doing to reach out to that section of the electorate that has a political philosophy more left leaning than his? In other words, there are lots of people in the state that will vote for him precisely because he's NOT Rick Santorum, but will that be enough? And if not how will he be reaching out to the States progressives to make sure he has enough votes?Something like that.
He started by saying that he was looking to make the choice very clear for the voters. On his side there's a "new direction" and on the other, there's "stay the course" with Bush/Cheney. He went beyond that rather simple dichotomy, however, and said that he's not going to be working on just the major priorities (Economy, War on Terror, etc) but also on getting back to the basics of the Democratic Party (Education, Fighting for the powerless, etc) and reiterated a few things that we've all known for a while - Santorum's 98% voting record with Bush and Santorum's connections to Big Oil.
On Abortion specifically, he pointed out while he differs with the pro-choice community, he's hoped that his positions on other connected issues (family planning/caring for new mothers before and after the births of their children) would make a stronger case for a vote for Casey as opposed to a vote for Rick Santorum.
I then went on to ask him about something I'd seen on his website. It's written there that if he were to be elected Senator, he'd ask the "tough questions" and "demand accountability" so I asked which tough questions, exactly? Accountability for what?
That's when we began to talk about Iraq.
He said that when a nation faces a very serious matter such as war, the very minimum a Senator (or House Member) should do - whatever the party affiliation - is to ask questions about all aspects the conflict. Here he pointed out that Rick Santorum didn't ask a single tough question about the war.
Casey said he would have asked about the body armor, an exit strategy, whether there's a plan to disarm the militias (important now that there are issues of a nasty Civil War at hand) and so on. He would have asked how specifically the President would be working to bring the Oil production up to pre-war levels. Now, he said, all you get is spin from Bush and a rubber stamp from Santorum.
On challenging questions in general, he said that as a Senator "It's your job" to ask them. He feels that of the two of them, he's a far more independent candidate than Santorum is - much to the consternation of his party.
I'd read in a few places on line that the RNC or the RSCC claimed that we'd only seen the beginning of the negative campaigning from the GOP. I asked him if he had a general strategy for dealing with it. What happens, I asked him, when Rick produces a TV ad that puts him in a motel room with Jane Fonda and Janeane Garofalo?
(That was a hypothetical, of course, but if the Santorum campaign stoops so low as to actually produce such an ad and considering the "Jailhouse/Campaign Team" ad, I wouldn't put it past them, remember you read it here first.)
He chuckled a bit at that and said that in general the number of negative ads coming out of the Stantorum camp really speaks to their character and a sense of desperation. He's fully expecting the same "blizzard of fear and smear" from them. This time, however, he doesn't expect it to work. Consider this: the poll numbers haven't moved much, even after the Santorum crowd has spent roughly $10 million on TV ads.
God, I hope he's right.
"Bob Casey", "Rick Santorum"