Democratic gay-marriage pool update: Bob Casey now in favor of SSM

After Kay Hagan flipped last week, Time magazine called the offices of the remaining Democratic holdouts and found no one else willing to budge. Quote:

Casey, a pro-life Catholic, did shift his position on gun control after the Newtown shooting last year, and is now under intense pressure from local gay rights activists. But when contacted by TIME, his office had nothing new to add on the topic.

That was on Wednesday, and it spurred Time to declare “the flip-flop frenzy” over. Five days later, the frenzy begins anew:

In an exclusive interview, the Pennsylvania Democrat said he had decided over time that the Defense of Marriage Act — the federal law that defines marriage as one man and one woman — should be repealed, and determined that such a belief could not be separate from the overall question of gay marriage.

“I ultimately decided that to make a decision about DOMA was making a decision about marriage equality itself,” Casey said…

Pennsylvania’s gay community flooded Casey’s office with letters and phone calls detailing their personal stories. Those accounts coupled with the shifting public opinion in support of gay marriage and what he described as the “basic civil rights and fairness” of it, convinced Casey to write a statement in support of gay marriage over the Easter holiday.

In a statement Casey said he wrote over several days, the senator asks, “If two people of the same sex fall in love and want to marry, why would our government stand in their way? At a time when many Americans lament a lack of commitment in our society between married men and women, why would we want less commitment and fewer strong marriages?”

Gay marriage is banned by statute in Pennsylvania and numerous attempts to change the law have died in the legislature over the past few years, but there as elsewhere, public opinion is changing. Depending upon which poll you read, support for SSM has increased in PA from roughly one-third of the public in the middle of the last decade to just above or just below a majority today. That’s still a gamble for any reelection-minded pol, but Casey’s no longer reelection-minded: Like Claire McCaskill, he won another term last November so now he’s free to roll the dice on this issue in the hope/expectation that voters in 2018 won’t care or will even reward him for it. The only curiosity is why he told Time “no change” last week only to announce a big switch today. Did he want the political limelight to himself? Or did gay-rights activists deliver enough calls and e-mails over the weekend that he figured maybe he shouldn’t drag his feet any longer? Liberals grudgingly tolerate him being pro-life; another social-issues heresy might have them thinking early about a primary challenge in 2018.

Alas, no one picked Casey in the last gay-marriage pool thread so there are no congrats to bestow. Only eight Democratic names left in the hat now: Joe Manchin, Mark Pryor, Heidi Heitkamp, Bill Nelson, Tim Johnson, Mary Landrieu, Joe Donnelly, and my perennial pick, Tom Carper. I’m going to switch to Nelson for the next round. If Carper hasn’t flipped already he’s probably a lost cause.