PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - U.S. Sen. Robert Casey of Pennsylvania on Friday endorsed Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination for president in a boost for the Illinois senator.
Casey could help Obama win over some of the state’s white, socially conservative, blue-collar voters, many of whom are unionized and fear economic uncertainty. That demographic group is a natural preserve of Obama’s rival, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, ahead of the April 22 primary.
“This campaign is a chance for America ... to chart a new course, to go down a different path, a path first of all of change, a path of a new kind of politics and finally a path of hope and healing,” Casey said.
“I believe in my heart that there is one person who is uniquely qualified to lead us in that direction and that is Barack Obama,” he told an audience of several thousand in Pittsburgh as Obama stood next to him on stage.
Casey will join part of Obama’s six-day bus tour across the state that began in Pittsburgh, aides to Obama said.
Endorsements by politicians can bolster a candidate’s credibility in a state with a specific section of the electorate, although their precise impact is often unclear.
Casey could help Obama in part because his father was a popular Democratic governor of the state from an Irish immigrant family.
The term ‘Casey Democrats’ was coined to describe supporters of the late governor who were liberal on economic issues, supportive of gun rights and opposed to abortion.
“I understood we are behind in Pennsylvania (in) all the polls. It would have been easy for Bob just to stay out of it, to stay neutral and everybody would have accepted that,” Obama said.
“When he called and said ‘I just think this is the right thing to do,’ it meant as much to me as any endorsement I have received on this campaign trail because I knew it was coming from the heart,” Obama said.
Obama’s campaign has spent $1.6 million in television advertising in the state in the past week, Obama aides said.
Clinton leads in polls in Pennsylvania and has the endorsement of the state’s governor, Ed Rendell, and other prominent Democrats.
Obama leads Clinton by more than 100 in the count of pledged delegates won in the state-by-state voting since January. Neither is on track to win the 2,024 delegates needed to clinch the nomination, which could result in an intraparty fight at the Democrats’ convention in August, ahead of the November 4 election.
Editing by Mohammad Zargham