Thursday, September 07, 2006

Tony Phyrillas: The incredible shrinking candidate

NBC's "Meet the Press" kicked off a two-month series of Senate debates Sunday with one of the marquee races in the country: Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a two-term Republican, versus Bob Casey, the current state treasurer and perennial candidate.

A candidate for four different state offices in the past six years, Casey promised that his run for Senate would be his last. If you believe that one, I have some lakefront property in New Orleans I'd like to sell you.

Casey has a history of running for his next cushy political job as soon as he starts collecting a paycheck for the current one. Casey hasn't shown up for work in the state treasurer's office half the time in 2006, but has no problem collecting a hefty state paycheck.

What Casey really wants is to be governor of Pennsylvania, but his mentor, Ed Rendell, currently holds that job, and Rendell is seeking another four-year term this November.

If Casey becomes a U.S. senator, I guarantee you hell resign midway through the six-year term to run for governor in 2010, following the same path as Jon Corzine in New Jersey.

Imagining Bobby Casey Jr. as a U.S. senator is a stretch. The man has toiled in unimportant jobs like auditor general and treasurer, but has little to show for the many years of feeding at the public trough. He shuffles a lot of paper around and signs checks, but the fact that Casey can skip work half the year without anybody missing him says a lot about the work he does.

Casey has name recognition, his father was a two-term governor, and he has the backing of every far left political activist and blogger in the country. But he lacks gravitas. It's hard to take this guy seriously about anything.

Casey reminds me of John F. Kerry but with a lot less hair. He speaks in a monotone voice and never really says anything. He's a champion flip-flopper. He recites bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo but has no vision for Pennsylvania or the nation. He's a walking sleeping pill. Bobby Casey Jr. couldn't excite a crowd if he fired a Taser gun at his audience.

The joint appearance on "Meet the Press" gave Pennsylvania voters (at least those who watch public affairs programs on Sunday morning) an opportunity to size up the candidates side by side. Casey has avoided voters (and newspaper interviews) as much as possible, prompting one columnist to label him "Hermetic Bob."

I've read a few critiques of Sunday’s debate by the pundits and I'm scratching my head. Some political commentators are saying that Casey held his own against Santorum. I'm wondering if the pundits watched the same debate.

I thought Santorum mopped the floor with Casey, who appeared nervous, interrupted Santorum and host Tim Russert frequently and dodged most of Russert's questions. An exasperated Russert tried two or three times to get Casey to answer very basic questions, often to no avail.

Silent Bob Casey wasn't about to take a position on any important issues, especially with potential voters watching.

On Social Security, Casey said there's no problem. When Russert reminded Casey that the number of retirees will double in the next 20-30 years, Casey didn't seem to grasp the economics. (This is supposed to be the state treasurer, after all. I'm wondering if Casey needs a refresher in third-grade math.) If you have twice as many people (up to 40 million more) retiring and you depend on the same shrinking pool of workers to fund Social Security, where is the money coming from? Casey had no answer.

On runaway spending in Washington, D.C., Casey said he'd repeal the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 to reduce the debt. Last time I checked, the national debt was pushing $8.5 trillion. The Bush tax cuts add up to about $60 billion in lost revenue. These might big numbers for the state treasurer, but restoring $60 billion doesn’t make a dent in the $8.5 trillion debt.

On Iraq, Casey said we need a new direction. He didn't elaborate. (Think cut-and-run).

Casey enjoyed a 20-point lead in the polls earlier this year. The race is now a dead heat. As I've been saying for the past year, the more you know about Bob Casey, the less there is to like. More Pennsylvania voters are getting to know Casey. That's why Santorum has closed the gap.

Santorum is one of the brightest, most sensible, articulate and hardest working members in the U.S. Senate. He's the third highest-ranking member of the Senate and has done a lot for his home state. Voters aren't going to give up that kind of clout so Bobby Casey Jr. can get on-the-job training.

Santorum will win a third term to the Senate this November. Bobby Casey will return to his job of state treasurer and he’ll bide his time until 2010 when he will run for governor — against Republican Lynn Swann, who will defeat Ed Rendell on Nov. 7.

Tony Phyrillas is a columnist for The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. E-mail him at tphyrillas@pottsmerc.com

1 comment:

GettysBLOG said...

Frankly, I don't know why Democrats keep nominating him. He runs the same tired and anemic campaigns, has no positions on imortant issues, but is constantly criticising his Republican opponents picturing them as folks who can do nothing right.

Oops, that sound like he's a card carrying national Democratic candidate. Change the name and the face and the candidates all sound alike!