Fresh off an historic electoral victory, prominent Republicans are already painting a target on Democratic U.S. Sen. Bob Casey in the 2018 election. The man they have been talking up to take out the two-term senator: Southeastern PA Congressman Pat Meehan.
“I’ve been talking to Pat in recent days and it sounds to me that he’s seriously considering a run against Casey in 2018,” said Charlie Kopp, a lawyer and longtime Republican fundraiser. “Being a senator was always something he’s had in his vision. So it’s not like something he decided yesterday; it’s been put on his mind for years.”
Meehan began his career as special counsel to the late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, later working as a US Attorney and Delaware County District Attorney. He served as a campaign manager for former US Sen. Rick Santorum and ultimately ran successfully for Congress in 2010.
Kopp credited the results of the recent presidential election with energizing Republican ambitions to take out Sen. Casey, a popular – but, some would argue, unexciting – Democrat.
“There was always a notion that it was hard for a Republican to run statewide because of the Southeast,” he said, "that there weren’t enough voters in the rest of the state to overcome the Southeast. But after this last election, the rest of the state came out pretty strong for a Republican.”
Campaign consultants for Meehan declined to comment. But Kopp was not alone in acknowledging that a Senate bid for the congressman was likely coming down the pike.
GOP strategist Charles Gerow said that Republican leadership had been eyeing Meehan as a Senate candidate for some time.
“I’ve heard Pat Meehan’s name mentioned among Republican leaders and it’s almost uniformly high praise and positive discussions about him running,” he said.
Gerow described the congressman’s credentials as a “center-right” legislator from Southeastern PA as an ideal combo to erode the electoral base for Casey, a moderate Democrat from the Scranton area.
But PA Democrats slammed Meehan as a "radical" Republican.
"If Congressman Meehan is going to run then he will have to explain his radical record of voting to slash Medicare benefits for Pennsylvania seniors and his plan that would also severely cut nursing home aid to 250,000 Pennsylvanians," said Brandon Cwalina, deputy press secretary for the PA Democratic Party.
Meehan’s well-wishers, like Gerow, talked up his conservative credentials and said that a second GOP senator would return economic dividends for the Keystone State.
“Pat Toomey and Pat Meehan would be an ideal combo for PA,” Gerow said.