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May 20, 2017

Bob Casey's new outspoken approach could be politically risky

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has been reborn in the age of Donald Trump. Will it pay off or come back to bite him?

Casey got the New York Times treatment Friday, and The Gray Lady's profile revolved around Casey's shift from quiet moderate to outspoken — not to mention tweet-happy — friend of the resistance.

The Times' cites his early opposition to the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, his efforts to stop the deportation of a Honduran family and calling Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey "Nixonian" as examples of his switch from "understated" to national-headline grabbing politician. The profile isn't the first to point out the senator's new groove: In March, BillyPenn wondered when he had become an "aggressive progressive all of a sudden?"

Considering Trump won Pennsylvania, Republicans are chomping at the bit, with several GOP challengers lining up to try and take his seat in 2018. Even former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell sees the potential pitfalls.

Per the Times:

“You can say that Bob Casey is doing this at some political risk to himself,” Mr. Rendell said, adding that he believed Mr. Casey’s “evolution” in tone reflected a genuine anger at the Trump administration. “He always was a Democrat who ran well with moderates and even some reasonable conservatives. Is he throwing that away by being so vocal and emphatic on these issues? Well, maybe so.”

Despite those risks, Casey still enjoys generally favorable re-election odds. The Times notes that Trump's 2016 win means he doesn't have to play defense during a third Democratic presidential term, and the senator's office pointed out to the newspaper that Casey has visited 21 Pennsylvania counties that went for Trump since the election.

BillyPenn noted that someone who hasn’t held statewide office or a Congressional seat hasn’t unseated a sitting U.S. senator in Pennsylvania since 1956. So far, no one who fits that criterion has announced a 2018 bid.

Of course, there's still plenty of time for a more prominent Republican to step up. U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta is considering a run. In the meantime, get used to the new Bob Casey — and his tweets.