In our conversation, the GOP strategist insisted to me that the lack of a strong challenge in Pennsylvania wasn't a problem. "The path to the majority doesn't run through Pennsylvania," the strategist said. If Republicans win Democrat-held seats in four solidly red states -- North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri and Montana -- and hold two of three GOP-held seats facing tough challenges -- Nevada, Maine and Massachusetts -- they can take the Senate even if they lose the big swing-state contests in Wisconsin, Virginia, New Mexico and Ohio. Then there are the relative long shots: Florida, where weak opposition has Democrat Bill Nelson looking nearly as safe as Casey; Hawaii, where the GOP scored a strong recruit in Republican former Gov. Linda Lingle; and Pennsylvania.
A national Democratic Senate strategist, meanwhile, had this sarcastic comment on the undistinguished field in the Pennsylvania Senate primary: "Oh, yeah, any one of those 17 guys could really give [Casey] a race."
Republicans, this strategist said, have been hamstrung by their determination not to antagonize local activists by getting involved early in Senate races -- a hangover from 2010, when national Republicans' involvement in races like the Florida primary between Charlie Crist and now-Sen. Marco Rubio was aggressively rebuffed, and the success of Tea Party primary challengers in states like Delaware and Nevada proved disastrous.
"They were overaggressive and tripped a lot of wires," the Democrat said. "So they did literally a 180 and now they're not involved at all." In states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Nebraska, Missouri and Michigan, that's hampered recruiting, as national Republicans can't offer to help the strongest candidate get through the primary. "And that's led to an inability to put other states on the map, like West Virginia and New Jersey, where they could be competitive with the right candidate," the Democrat said.
In Pennsylvania, several Republicans with higher profiles than those currently running passed on the race -- the most frequently mentioned are two members of Congress, Jim Gerlach and Charlie Dent. And so now the primary is the current free-for-all of relative no-names.
Rohrer, the former state legislator, told me he spends much of his time trying to convince skeptical voters that Casey -- an inoffensive but not particularly distinguished politician -- can, in fact, be defeated.
"I can assure you it is not impossible. By no means is he unbeatable," Rohrer said. "I've been traveling this state, and Bob Casey will not face the same wind in the sails that he faced six years ago. These will be headwinds." Casey, he said, "is a nice guy, but Pennsylvanians expect their senators to lead, to champion issues. Bob has not." Rohrer also charged that Casey has "not kept his word on key issues," including abortion and the Second Amendment.
I sought a response from Casey's camp, but the senator's spokesman, Larry Smar, did not seem particularly interested in giving one.
"Obviously, it is a crowded and increasingly nasty battle," he said in an email of the GOP primary. "They seem to have their hands full with one another at the moment, so we will see what happens on Tuesday."