By DEVLIN BARRETT
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK (AP) - Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey plans to endorse Democrat Barack Obama Friday, a move that could carry special weight with critical Catholic voters in the Keystone State's upcoming primary and with superdelegates.
Campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the endorsement will come as Obama begins a six-day campaign swing through Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania's April 22 primary is the next big prize in the drawn-out nomination battle between Obama, the Illinois senator, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. Clinton holds a double-digit lead in recent polls of Pennsylvania voters.
Casey is a first-term senator and the son of a popular former governor of the state. Casey is Catholic and, like his father, is known for his opposition to abortion. His support could help Obama make inroads among Catholic voters.
Pennsylvania has an estimated 3.8 million Catholics, or just over 30 percent of the state's population, and the percentage among Democrats is estimated to be slightly higher.
Clinton and her supporters have been making their own direct appeals: backers Kathleen Kennedy Townsend and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., last week wrote a letter to Pennsylvania Catholics emphasizing her plans on health care, mortgage foreclosures and fuel costs.
Casey is scheduled to join Obama in Pittsburgh Friday and campaign with him as Obama travels by across Pennsylvania by bus.
The bus tour will feature "listening sessions," a technique Clinton used in her 2000 Senate campaign to convince skeptical New Yorkers that she was not just a carpetbagger looking for a plum post after leaving the White House.
Though trailing in the state, Obama hopes to prevent Clinton from racking up a large win in the state which could eat away at his delegate advantage and give her new life in the final primaries running to June.
It may be a tough sell for some in the state, which has a sizable elderly population. In the previous primaries, older Democrats have favored Clinton, while younger voters tend toward Obama.
Casey served two four-year terms as state auditor general. He lost a 2002 gubernatorial bid in the Democratic primary to Gov. Ed Rendell, who is backing Clinton.
Casey was elected to the Senate in 2006, defeating conservative GOP incumbent Rick Santorum.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)