« CT-Sen: Joementum | Main | Katrina: Brigham Enters the Big Easy »

Thursday, September 08, 2005

PA-Sen: Casey to Debate Pennacchio

Posted by Tim Tagaris

You gotta hand it to Chuck Pennacchio, he has no fear. Tonight Bob Casey and Pennacchio will meet face-to-face for the first time, and Pennacchio plans on walking right up to Jr. and challenging him personally to a series of nine debates between now and the primary election. Casey's campaign manager indicated that he would debate the primary challenger.

Casey's campaign responded that he will debate Santorum and any primary opposition, but said that it's too early.

"First, we need to see who actually qualifies for the Democratic primary," said Jay Reiff, Casey's campaign manager. "Once the primary field is set, we will decide which debate invitations to accept."

Typical Casey campaign response, taking a page out of the Bush Adminstration's perpetual "plenty of time" campaign. But Reiff's acknowledgement is a huge step in legitimizing Chuck's campaign, long ignored by team Casey. My guess is that Casey will end up debating Chuck a few times, but will do everything they can to stifle coverage of the events.

It's another in a series of tight-rope walks for Casey. Chuck will clean Casey's clock in any debates they have. I have seen both speak, and Chuck's knowledge of important issues and populist bent is only outstripped by his contagious passion. Casey, on the other hand, is boring and nuanced. While Chuck will undoubtedly light a room on fire, Junior will bore people and allienate Democrats when forced to come clean on many of his issue positions.

But it's something Casey must do before he takes on Santorum. Frankly, he is a poor campaigner and needs the practice. Ed Rendell called Casey's campaign for Governor one of the "worst in modern American politics," and the presumptive nominee can't afford to further alienate a Democratic base slowly but surely shifting Pennacchio's way in recent weeks/months. I'm sure it kills his campaign to have to debate anyone, as the strategy is largely to blur the differences and allow Santorum to fall on his own sword.

Good Works PAC, an organization committed to building electoral foundations through community services (sort of like Dean Corps on steroids) has already tried to organize debates, but cited Casey as the major stopping point.

Efforts to get independent third-party groups to host debates and all the candidates to participate at such an early date hasn't been a success.

"It just looks like a non-starter," said Eric Loeb, executive director of GoodWorks-PAC.org, which tried to organize debates this fall. "It's just not in enough of the important players' interest for it to happen," Loeb said. [...]

"It would be in Santorum's interest if he could get Casey there," Loeb said. "Obviously it would be in the smaller candidate's interest. It's not in Casey's interest."

This is going to get interesting. Don't be surprised to see Chuck challenge Santorum to debates (or the other way around) should Pennacchio continue to build momentum and Casey continue to run and hide. I think it would be a good idea, and would make things very interesting.

(Disclaimer: I used to work for Chuck and hope he cleans Casey's clock)

Posted at 12:30 PM in Pennsylvania | Technorati


I belong to the faction that says Chuck has zero chance, but I completely agree that it is critical for Casey to debate him and get some experience in countering cogent arguments. Santorum may be nuts, but he is not an empty chair, and he knows how to advocate his positions effectively. Casey needs to be able to develop the skill of slugging it out toe-to-toe if he wants to take out Santorum.

Posted by: Steve M [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 8, 2005 02:20 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

After reading Churck Pennacchio's bio, I think he isn't the complete long shot that everyone is making him out to be. Folks really need to read some Wellstone before they write this guy off.

Hopefully, the debates (which are sorely needed) will show that Casey is just too conservative and will be just like another Lieberman in the Senate and that Pennacchio is the true Democrat here.

Here's what Pennacchios website eloquently states:
"Every six years, the Democratic Party seeks the perfect Senate candidate - a combination of name recognition, ideology and fundraising skill. In 44 years this formula has produced 14 consecutive full-term election defeats."

SSP and other progressive blogs theme has been to support the real Democrats out there. Chuck Pennacchio is the real Democrat here. Lets support him.

Posted by: gatordemocrat [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2005 01:19 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

If Chuck is a longshot now, it's only because newspapers rarely mention him and when they do they call him a longshot. If enough Democrats simply hear about Chuck and his politics, he'll win the primary and beat Santorum.

Chuck will qualify for the primary and I suspect the Casey camp already knows that much. Chuck has already raised over 75k ; very promising considering he doesn't take $ from corporations or PACs.

It's important for all of us who'd like to see Pennacchio & Casey debate to write the editors of PA newspapers and tell them about it. Chuck requested that the series of debates to start in January so we need to convince newspapers to start talking about it now so that there will be public interest. Otherwise the Casey Camp might try to back out of it by saying that there isn't sufficient interest or they will put the debates off until Spring. Email Casey's campaign too and let them know you want him to debate Chuck soon!

Posted by: Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2005 07:42 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I honestly find all these Wellstone comparisons embarrassing. Paul Wellstone was an amazing man, a type of person whose likes are rarely seen, if ever seen in American politics. To be comparing a candidate like Chuck Pennacchio to Paul Wellstone is like comparing Penny Hardaway to Michael Jordan. Yes both are good basketball players, but there is a major difference.

Posted by: jkfp2004 [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 9, 2005 11:25 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Paul Wellstone was considered an obscure longshot candidate when he ran for Senate. He didn't have much money or party leader endorsements at first. The odds were against him but he pulled it off. Yes, it might be one of those "once in a lifetime" things, but if Pennacchio supporters work hard (and we will) Chuck could get enough support to win the primary. Remember the primary is still over 8 months away. Chuck started campaigning in the Spring so its a little early to be saying never.

Paul was an amazing person and no one can ever really "replace" him. When Chuck's supporters compare him to Chuck we are only saying that both were little known, yet highly charismatic progressive candidates who ran for Senate in moderate blue states. Paul is a legend now but if we sent current Casey supporters back in time before Paul had won the MN primary, they would all say "There's no way he'll ever win!"

Posted by: Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2005 09:54 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Here's a good brief bio of Paul Wellstone. Notice Paul was considered a long shot right up 'til election day.


Here's a criticism of Paul Wellstone written a few months before his tragic death. While I think the author was a bit too harsh on him, he does raise some valid points. Paul Wellstone didn't always live up to Paul Wellstone. He was human; he made mistakes and broke some promises. We remember him, perhaps with rose-colored glasses because we miss him terribly.

Posted by: Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2005 11:03 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Sorry, here's the criticism:


By the way, I'd like to invite anyone here who supports Chuck Pennacchio to our yahoo group:


Posted by: Dave [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 10, 2005 11:07 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Here's the this-wont-fit-in-a-newspaper-story stuff I wrote to (article author) Brett Lieberman:

The most idealistic (and likely unprintable) position of GoodWorks-PAC.org is that we as a society should be exploring alternative debate formats that disable the current rhetorical dynamic in which truth plays little-to-no role. Trading 90 second barbs does nothing to promote balanced judgement or accurate perspective. In our new media environment, a debate does not have to take place in a single evening and it does not require the candidates to stand at podiums. The candidates could (to pick a random example) each manage a shelter for storm evacuees, in accord with their differing governing philosophies, over a period of several months. At the beginning of that "debate", the candidates would publicly and openly pick their shelter managers, set the goals and priorities, and predict the outcomes of their efforts. After a short period the shelters would all be evaluated to make sure no candidate's approach was causing the evacuees harm. Assuming all candidates are well intentioned and reasonable, the "debate" would wrap up several months later, when an independent organization would evaluate what worked and didn't work in each shelter and publish their findings.

Our democratic institutions need our help. If they don't keep growing, they die. Why not have a debate that includes all the candidates from both/multiple parties? If it's not practical to do that in a one hour TV show, who says it has to be a one hour TV show?

The GoodWorks-PAC.org position on alternative candidates like Chuck Pennacchio is that they can and should at least help us explore alternative approaches to campaigning. It is a sad fact of life that Chuck is being pushed toward negative campaigning against Casey as his one way of getting news coverage. The universe is just too big a place for that to be the only option. We have to explore alternatives.

Pennacchio will not take PAC money, but for what it's worth, non-donating (to his race) GoodWorks-PAC.org urges him to pursue positive and constructive avenues as he seeks to engage Casey in debate.

Eric Loeb
Executive Director

Posted by: Eric Loeb [TypeKey Profile Page] at September 13, 2005 02:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment