Kim Lyons and John Cole, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 1, 2024
All U.S. Senate races are pivotal this year as Republicans try to regain the majority in the upper chamber, but Pennsylvania’s race may wind up being the most expensive. Incumbent Bob Casey will likely face off against Republican opponent David McCormick, a former hedge fund manager with considerable personal wealth. Already, the candidates have raised more than $10 million combined.
“We’re ready for this race,” Casey said during a Jan. 26 campaign event in Philadelphia. “It’s going to be a long, tough race. But I am ready.”
McCormick has tried to brand Casey as a Washington insider, a “rubber stamp” for President Joe Biden’s policies. “When Joe Biden says jump, Bob Casey asks how high. When Joe Biden says vote, Bob Casey says ‘which way?’ When Joe Biden comes calling, Bob Casey comes running,” McCormick said during his campaign launch in September.
The key issues in the race are beginning to coalesce, and a look at the two candidates’ positions show them aligned on some issues but far apart on others. We’re taking a close look at where each of the candidates stands on the issues that are most likely to bring Pennsylvania voters to the polls.
First up: Abortion and reproductive rights.
Democrats kicked off 2024 by coming out swinging on the 51st anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, struck down last year by the U.S. Supreme Court. The issue has been a win for Democrats everywhere it’s appeared on the ballot since the Dobbs decision, including in Pennsylvania. More than $19 million was spent on the state Supreme Court race last November, as reproductive rights advocates sought to shore up the Democrats’ majority.
“This Supreme Court, a right wing Supreme Court, tore away a 49-year right for women,” Casey said during the campaign event in Philadelphia on Jan. 26. “So rights for women are on the ballot in this race as well.”
Prior to the Dobbs decision in June 2022, when regulation of abortion changed from a constitutional right to a procedure that could be restricted at the state level, Casey had described himself as a “pro-life Democrat.” POLITICO reported in 2018 that Casey opposed the Roe decision legalizing abortion, even though his voting record was often in support of abortion rights.
Casey called the Dobbs ruling “dangerous” in a June 2022 statement. “Today’s decision upends almost a half century of legal precedent and rips away a constitutional right that generations of women have known their entire lives,” he said, warning then that Republicans in Congress were seeking a total ban on abortion.
A look at Casey’s voting record shows consistent support for abortion rights. He voted for the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have codified Roe v. Wade into law, and stopped state-level abortion bans, and the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would provide a federal right to abortion care. Planned Parenthood Action, finds he votes with the organization 72% of the time.
When asked last year if he still considered himself pro-life, Casey said the term was “antiquated” and that he didn’t believe the terms used before the Dobbs decision “make much sense anymore.”
Casey’s campaign sent a fundraising email on Jan. 22 of this year, the Roe anniversary, asking for donations “to stop Mitch McConnell and David McCormick from taking back the Senate and passing a national abortion ban.”
McCormick’s position on abortion has been mostly consistent, but could be more problematic this election year than when he ran for Senate in 2022.
In December, McCormick said he is that he is “pro-life and supports exceptions in the case of rape, incest, and saving the life of the mother.”
During a GOP candidates’ debate in April 2022, a moderator asked McCormick “If Roe vs. Wade is overturned, should there be exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother?” McCormick began his answer by accusing candidate Mehmet Oz, the eventual winner of the 2022 GOP primary of “flip-flopping” on the issue. The moderator asked McCormick again: “How about you, exceptions, in your view?” McCormick answered “I believe in the very rare instances there should be exceptions for the life of the mother.”
In May 2022, McCormick said if the leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion draft overturning Roe v. Wade became the court’s majority opinion, “it would be a huge victory for the protection of innocent life and rightfully puts the issue of life back into the hands of the states.”
However, McCormick has said he does not support a national abortion ban. In a September Fox News interview he said it was “an issue where I think we have to show a lot of compassion and look for common ground.”
The campaigns both refer to their opponent as “extreme” when it comes to abortion.
“Bob Casey has repeatedly voted to allow abortion up until the moment of birth, an extreme position that is totally out of touch with the people of Pennsylvania,” a McCormick spokeswoman wrote in an email to the Capital-Star.
The comment appears to be in reference to the Women’s Health Protection Act, which many Republicans have interpreted as allowing abortions late in pregnancy. Democrats have argued that’s not the intent of the legislation, which would provide a federal right to abortion care, and stop state bans and restrictions on abortion.
The text of the bill states that abortion cannot be prohibited “at any point or points in time prior to fetal viability.” It also states abortion can’t be prohibited “after fetal viability when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health.”
“Republican efforts to ban abortion will be a major issue in this campaign. We will make sure Pennsylvanians hear the truth about David McCormick’s dangerous support for an abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest,” Casey campaign manager Tiernan Donohue wrote in an email to the Capital-Star. “Time and again, Pennsylvania voters rejected candidates with this extreme position and they’ll do it again in 2024.”
Next in this series: We’ll compare Casey and McCormick’s records on labor.
Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kim Lyons for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.