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Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Bob Casey Congratulates President-Elect Biden

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And now we're going to talk with somebody who's really been at the epicenter of all this in recent days. We're talking about Pennsylvania. And we're going to speak with Senator Bob Casey, Pennsylvania Democrat. And he is with us now.

Senator, welcome. Welcome back, I should say. Thank you so much for joining us.

BOB CASEY: Michel, good to be with you and Steve.

MARTIN: So it's hard asking people to kind of describe their emotions when they found out that Joe Biden had been and Kamala Harris had been named the victors in this contest. Do you mind telling us where you were and what was going through your mind as you learned this news?

CASEY: I was in my home in Scranton, Pa., where I felt like I'd been locked up for days just monitoring the vote and trying to do everything I could to explain how the vote was - you know, the vote counting was transpiring in Pennsylvania. But what a great relief and a great day for celebration. It's - I think it's a celebration for the country, but obviously in a personal way for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

These campaigns are all hard. They're really difficult. But to defeat an incumbent president is exceedingly difficult, and they worked very hard. And we should give them at least a day to celebrate personally and then begin the work they have to do to unite the nation at a time of crisis.

MARTIN: Well, let's look back for just one minute before we look forward. What do you think was critical to the success of the Biden-Harris team in Pennsylvania? Certainly, he spent a lot of time there, even when he wasn't traveling. Due to the COVID pandemic, he wasn't traveling to other places. He made a point of spending time in Pennsylvania.

He's obviously from there. He's from Scranton. That's a very big part of, you know, who he is, and he's certainly made that clear. But what do you think was the critical factor in their victory in Pennsylvania, which was certainly hard-fought on both sides?

CASEY: It was. Yeah, I'm not sure there's one thing you could point to or one metric, but certainly both message and mechanics. Message, in this sense - he had to, and I think it was appropriate for him to focus on the virus, the public health crisis, the worst in a century, and the - an economic message, a message about how he was going to create jobs and lift the economy out of the ditch.

We're a state that the unemployment rate was for six months higher than it was in almost 40 years. And we had, like a lot of states, just the reality of the virus and the adverse impact of the virus. I think the mechanics part of it was making sure you could advertise on not just television, which is still a very important way to reach voters in Pennsylvania, but social media and digital advertising. Great - a great field operation - lots of volunteers, lots of energy.

So I think the Biden-Harris campaign did all of that well. But, you know, despite doing everything almost perfectly as a campaign, it was still hard-fought and close. But they did a great job, and I'm really grateful to have worked with them on it.

MARTIN: So now let's look forward in your statement upon congratulating the Biden-Harris ticket. You said it's now time to unite and heal our nation so we can build back better, coming together as one nation. We can defeat the virus, rebuild our economy for workers and families and provide a brighter future for our children.

As we are speaking now, the president still hasn't conceded. He's not given any indication that he plans to. He certainly hasn't called his opponent. He certainly hasn't invited him to the White House, which are a number of the protocols that would normally be observed. How does - how do you bridge that, given that there are a lot of people who simply say - who are telling our reporters, for example, they simply will not accept these results?

And I think you're well-positioned to answer that because your delegation, as I understand it, is split right down the middle - you know, one Democratic senator, one Republican senator. You've got 18 congressional districts, half and half. Literally, nine are held by Democrats, nine are held by Republicans. So what are the first steps you think that the Biden-Harris team needs to take to try to bridge this gap and heal these divisions?

CASEY: Well, part of the healing, I think, has to involve hard work of what the two crises are. If we want to heal a nation, one of the best ways to heal and unify is to work together on the virus, as we did, at least, for a number of weeks in March and April, when you were getting the CARES Act, for example, was unanimous. Ninety-six members of the Senate voted. There was four in quarantine at the time, but that was unanimous, and the bill after that was unanimous.

So you had several bills that were the subject of unanimity. We need to recapture some of that because we need a relief bill right now. I don't want to wait.

And I know some Democrats may want to wait until, you know, February with a new administration. We need a relief bill right now for food security, more money for Medicaid, more money for state and local governments, more money for a strategy to get deaths down in nursing homes, which is a tragedy within the larger tragedy - so a lot of work to do to get that done. We should start that now, long before there's a new administration.

But when we get to the new administration, we're going to need, I think, a New Deal-type jobs program. And - but all of us have to work on unity.

MARTIN: And before we let you go, Senator, one of the things that might help bring this to a close or lower the temperature, as the vice president has been saying, is a definitive result. Do you have any sense of when the results in Pennsylvania will actually be certified? Do you know?

CASEY: Well, it'll certainly be certified before the Electoral College. In our state, it usually takes about two weeks to get an official count. And then the official count undergirds the certification.

MARTIN: All right. That is U.S. Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, speaking to us from Scranton.

Senator Casey, thank you so much for talking to us once again.

CASEY: Thanks again. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.