Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., is not one of this year’s most vulnerable Democrats. But he will be defending his seat next year in a midterm election, and in a state that just voted for Donald Trump and his conservative colleague, Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa. So it’s probably welcome news for him that Philadelphia Republican Rep. Pat Meehan, who might have been a strong challenger and would have begun with nearly $2 million in the bank, has decided to seek re-election instead.

The Philly Inquirer reported yesterday morning:

Meehan had been considering a bid against Casey in a state that went to President Trump in November, but on Saturday night a spokesman said the Congressman plans to focus on his work in the House.
“Rep. Meehan’s seat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee enables him to play a critical role in the most important coming legislative debates: health care, tax reform and trade,” wrote spokesman John Elizandro. “He believes, at this time, our region is best served by him remaining in the House of Representatives and focused on the legislative opportunities ahead.”

There were surely many calculations involved in this decision. A run against Casey, whose late father was revered in the state, will be an uphill climb for whoever tries it — although not necessarily an impossible one, as the late Tom Smith showed by holding him under 54 percent in the Democratic presidential year of 2012.

What’s more, Meehan took some political risks last year that didn’t pay off. He declared himself #NeverTrump last summer and cast a write-in vote for Mike Pence in November. That may have made sense in the context of his district, which Hillary Clinton narrowly carried, but in a statewide race there was always the risk (which is part of the new normal for Republicans) that Trump could blow him up with a single vengeful tweet.

What’s more, Speaker Paul Ryan and NRCC chairman Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, had every reason to encourage Meehan to stay in the House. Republicans seem very likely to keep the Senate in 2018 thanks to the Class I map, but the House could become a different story — recall that Democrats lost a significantly larger majority in 2010. If House control does end up being in play, as often happens in midterms when the president’s party controls the House, Meehan’s oddly-shaped district in suburban Philly would likely be a top pickup target for Democrats. It would be a much harder target for Republicans to defend if it were an open seat.

In a previous, less geometrically offensive incarnation, Meehan’s seventh congressional district had been one of the first dominoes to fall in the 2006 Democratic wave, when Democrat Joe Sestak defeated a scandal-plagued (although to this day never charged or indicted) Republican Rep. Curt Weldon.

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