Pennsylvania Swings Obama's Direction

Democrat Barack Obama beat Republican John McCain by a wide margin in Pennsylvania. Both candidates paid a lot of attention to this battleground state. Democratic Sen. Robert Casey of Penn. talks with Steve Inskeep about how Obama was able to carry the state.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And let's go next to the state of Pennsylvania which was called early for Barack Obama. Although it is always considered a swing state, it has gone for Democrats in recent elections. And Obama won by a wide margin despite a big effort by John McCain. And we're going to get a view now from Pennsylvania's Democratic senator, Robert Casey. Welcome to the program once again.

Senator ROBERT CASEY (Democrat, Pennsylvania): Hey, Steve. It's good to be with you. Thank you.

INSKEEP: Senator, what do you think helped Barack Obama win a state that he lost in the Democratic primary?

Senator CASEY: Well, I think it was the same strong message that he had for the whole country, which was an economic message focused on the middle class. I think that message got through, especially in the crucible of a very tough campaign in probably the greatest financial and economic crisis we've had in more than a generation. I think people saw a strong leader with very specific ideas. And I think the kind of steady judgment - and really another word I keep coming back to is equanimity, his ability to handle the ups and downs of a campaign.

And when people are in crisis and they feel real economic stress in their lives, I think they look to leaders that have that kind of ability to focus on the future, to set forth priorities, and to demonstrate the kind of leadership that you can't necessarily define or teach...

INSKEEP: Senator Casey, let me just interrupt. Forgive me for interrupting, but I want to ask about the way that Pennsylvania voted. You can, of course, do a map of Pennsylvania with red and blue counties, the same way you can do red and blue states for the country. I think in past presidential elections, you'd have a lot of blue around Philadelphia, a lot of blue around Pittsburgh, and a lot of red in the rural counties in between. How strong an effort was made by Democrats to get some votes in those red counties in the middle of the state, the rural counties in Pennsylvania?

Senator CASEY: Well, an extraordinary effort by Senator Obama's campaign, not only in terms of message, but in terms of mobilization. We have never seen anything even approaching their ability to reach - their campaign - their paid staff and their volunteers reached more voters over a sustained period of time than in any campaign in history, by significant multiples. They were able to win - he was able to win counties that the Democrats have had trouble with the last couple of presidential campaigns. So it was a broad-based win across the state. Even in Republican communities, he was shaving down the margin. So it bodes well for his governing.

INSKEEP: And let me ask about something that was said by a Pennsylvania congressman, John Murtha, during the campaign. He said that some voters in his part of the state were racist. He thought it would cost Barack Obama about four percent of the vote. Do you think any of that turned out to be true?

Senator CASEY: I think the political scientists will analyze it further, but it seems that the concern that a lot of people had about the issue of prejudice, which of course is everywhere - I mean, I think that probably in some places it's more pronounced - I think the reason why it seems to have not had an effect is Barack is a transcended figure. He's able to bridge gaps, not only on race, but on party, I think. And then the tone he set in the campaign at times when people in our party probably wanted him to punch harder or hit back with more ferocity. He didn't do that. He showed great restraint. I think that demonstrates the kind of leader he's going be as president.

INSKEEP: One other thing I have to ask. We've just got a couple of seconds left. But all the newscasts yesterday mentioned that Senator Obama played a game of basketball to relax on Election Day. And I'm told that you were also on the court with him. Is that right?

Senator CASEY: I was, and I'm glad you said it that way, because I'm not sure I was playing basketball.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Senator CASEY: I was on the court, but he's got a fundamentally sound game. I think it bodes well for handling the economic difficulties.

INSKEEP: A fundamentally sound game. Senator Casey, thank you very much.

Senator CASEY: Thanks, Steve.

INSKEEP: Robert Casey is Democratic senator from the state of Pennsylvania, which went to Barack Obama yesterday.

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