Sestak Moves Closer to Primary Challenge

by: Chris Bowers

Mon May 04, 2009 at 20:30


Joe Sestak's primary challenge to Arlen Specter becomes more likely with every passing day. First, consider consider how Sestak's public statements on a challenge have evolved in just the last six days:

Before Specter got in the race, Sestak said he had no intention of attempting a bid for the Senate. After Specter made his switch that all changed. First Sestak criticized Specter for lacking principles. Then said he'd wait to see what Specter stands for before making any decisions. Then Friday he said he was "thinking about getting in" to the race. Now he tells Greg "[i]f [Specter] doesn't demonstrate that he has shifted his position on a number of issues, I would not hesitate at all to get in."

If we are at the point where Specter can only avoid a primary challenge unless he changes his position on "a number of issues," then a primary challenge is all but a foregone conclusion. Consider Specter's public unwillingness to change:

After vowing not to support cloture on the Employee Free Choice Act in his first day as a Democrat, and then voting against the Democratic budget in his second day as a Democrat, Arlen Specter has now, in his third day as a Democrat, voted against the housing bankruptcy reform legislation known as "cramdown."

He also continues to oppose a key Obama nominee, and is against a public option for health care reform. No Democrat, not even Evan Bayh or Ben Nelson, has acted against the Obama administration this often, and certainly not on this number of major pieces of legislation.

If Sestak doesn't challenge Specter at this point, it will likely be because he decides it is not viable, rather than because Specter actually changes his positions. In that regard, Sestak would probably receive support from the the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and much of the netroots. However, he would still be going up against a massive array of Democratic Party leaders, including President Obama. Also, Specter currently has a sky-high, 80%+ approval rating among Pennsylvania Democrats.

It is a tough call for Sestak, but at the very least he is doing progressives a service by keeping his threat of a primary challenge so open and public. If Specter actually is going to start acting like a more reliable Democrat, there is a much better chance that he will do so with the sword of Sestak hanging over his head, then with the primary path cleared for him. As he revealed in his partisan switch, Specter clearly wavers when under threat of defeat.

Chris Bowers :: Sestak Moves Closer to Primary Challenge

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Dems for Specter (4.00 / 4)
That 80% is a blip.  When DKos polled PA in December, Specter pulled 16-18% of Dem voters in hypothetical match-ups with three potential Dem nominees.  I think he's going to have a much tougher time in the Dem primary that he expected, and I still think he would've been much better served as an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

I have to say (4.00 / 4)
that I agree with you.  Not knowing PA election laws, save that Specter can't be a "Sore Loser" and pull a Lieberman, I do think that Specter would have been better off joining the Pennsylvania for Specter Party (PfSP)... well joining the PfSP just after his friends created it.

Personally, I think the US would be better off as a country with a Specterfree Senate, so I do hope Sestak jumps in.

If nothing else, it's clear the Specter was spooked into voting for insane nonsense because he was worried about being primaried from the right.  Thus it makes sense to spook Specter into voting for reality because he's worried about being primaried from the left.

 


[ Parent ]
Sestak may find it harder than it looks (4.00 / 1)
The base reason that Specter switched is that he knew he would loose the primary.   Why?  Over 100,000 (presumably moderate Republican) voters changed their registration to Democrat to vote in that long, actively contested, exciting primary season who never changed back.  

Specter switched to follow his base voters.  In all probability, they will vote for Specter in a Specter/Sestak contest.  That's a much higher hurtle.

Higher approval ratings among Dems for Specter should not be discounted as there is that new 100K dynamic that people seem to be forgetting about.

Having said that, I think that Sestak even making noises about getting in is great.  We don't need Specter to vote for EFCA, just vote for Cloture (a procedural vote) and avoid a filibuster.  Sestak making moves to enter the primary make it more likely that Specter will do just that.  Specter's a smart politician, I think he understands the dynamics of his new base.

To me, the endgame for EFCA looks like this: A) Do we have enough votes to invoke Cloture through a procedural vote?  B) Do we have enough Dem Senators to pass it (need 51)?  


[ Parent ]
re (0.00 / 0)
Do we have enough Dem Senators to pass it (need 51)?

50? Don't tell me Biden is against it?

[ Parent ]
and (0.00 / 0)
Sestak may find it harder than it looks

The base reason that Specter switched is that he knew he would loose the primary.   Why?  Over 100,000 (presumably moderate Republican) voters changed their registration to Democrat to vote in that long, actively contested, exciting primary season who never changed back.  

Specter switched to follow his base voters.  In all probability, they will vote for Specter in a Specter/Sestak contest.  That's a much higher hurtle.

as klondike said Sestak can pound Specter mercilessly for his GWB support?


[ Parent ]
Public Health Insurance Plan Option (4.00 / 5)
I'd be more excited by the threat of Sestak if he'd come out for the public health insurance plan option.  Everyone who lives in his district and supports it should give Sestak a call encouraging him to do the same as soon as possible.

Did he not (4.00 / 2)
do that here? I'm not sure if he walked a fine line in the comments there, or supported the public plan.

[ Parent ]
I find this paragraph interesting (4.00 / 1)
Because Specter opposes the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act, 23 percent of voters are less likely to vote for him, while 14 percent are more likely and 60 percent say this will not affect their vote. There is little difference from the overall totals among union households.

I'm not sure how to interpret that.

Things You Don't Talk About in Polite Company: Religion, Politics, the Occasional Intersection of Both


Sestak Gets My Money (4.00 / 5)
If Specter doesn't roll over and fetch like a good dog on at least one big issue like health care or EFCA, we should bury him. It's going to take a huge wad of cash to take him down, though.

and cap and trade (4.00 / 2)
It's those 3 or sayanara specter.

[ Parent ]
I hereby pledge to contribute to any Democrat (4.00 / 9)
who primaries Specter. I can't stand the guy, and I don't want him in the Democratic party.

I went to Sestaks site (0.00 / 0)
I pledged my time and money if he ran against him.

[ Parent ]
What a mess.... (4.00 / 1)
We have to back a blue dog against a DINO, and Tom Ridge is thinking about being the GOP nominee, which clouds it all further...

As Lando said, "This deal keeps getting worse all the time!"

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


Sestak is not a Blue Dog (4.00 / 6)
He isn't on the publicly available Blue Dog lists, he is not on their website. And Sestak's lifetime voting score is 93% according to Progressive Punch.

I know Nate Silver did a hit job on Sestak's progressive credentials, but Silver's stats and conclusions were way off base. Sestak's lifetime score is equal to Chuck Schumer or Carl Levin. He's been wrong on some votes but he is in a reddish district. He'd probably end up a bit more liberal than Bob Casey if he became Senator, since Sestak is pro-choice.


[ Parent ]
Good to know! Thanks! n/t (4.00 / 2)


REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
I donated to Joe Torsella (4.00 / 2)
http://www.joetorsella.com/vis...

I think he's more liberal than Sestak.

But I'll switch to Sestak if it comes down to him and Specter.

That said, remember the last 4 years of the Bush Administration - torture, illegal wiretapping, alito, US attorney, etc etc etc - in every single case Specter was soaking up the media with his equally hypocritical sidekicks Chuck and Dianne - saying all the right things.

In the end, every last time, Schumer and Feinstein did Bush's dirty work behind the scenes and Specter voted exactly the opposite to all of his virtuous proclamations. I think Specter's strategy is that he thinks people have short attention spans. If he speaks out against violating FISA, the left will be happy, and when he votes for legalizing it after the fact, the right will be happy.

I suspect that in the end, Specter will wind up giving Obama what he needs, after getting as much press as he can for opposing him.


but we should still primary him into oblivion (4.00 / 3)
Specter is a shoe-in to win a general election, but he can't get INTO the general election from either side of the aisle. His chickens have come home to roost and it couldn't happen to a smarmier, slimier weasel.

And here's what REALLY pisses me off. We taxpayers have paid for millions of dollars of "public option" congressional healthcare funds to keep this bastard alive and he has the gall to deny it to us even though it was the single most repeated campaign pledge of Obama, Hillary and Kerry.

"Every American will have access to the same health care plan as members of Congress"

"Read my lips ... no more refusal letters from Blue Cross"

right


[ Parent ]
He's not a shoe-in to win the general.. (4.00 / 2)
...if Ridge ends up winning the Republican primary...

And that might be just the impetus he needs to start voting like the people of PA want him to.... like a Democrat!

REID: Voting against us was never part of our arrangement!
SPECTER: I am altering the deal! Pray I don't alter it any further!
REID: This deal keeps getting worse all the time!


[ Parent ]
Where is the grass roots in PA? (4.00 / 2)
Sorry, not to be negative here but I can just imagine how I and others in New Mexico would be responding if Richardson had pulled this kind of stunt on us!

Clear the field no way!  Now one should allow Specter to get up and say squat at any public event without challenging him.  He's not a Democrat - doesn't believe in anything that we believe in.  He's just an opportunist with no ethics or morals that will do anything to stay in office.

The good Dems of PA should spit on him whenever he gets near them.


Good Matchup (4.00 / 1)
I still wish Rep. Patrick Murphy would run.  His youth would match up very well against Specter who is young only compared against an old growth California redwood.

Pennsylvania is one state I've never claimed to have figured out but I don't think Specter will age well in this race.  Obviously he is a survivor with a few tricks up his sleeve.  A year from now my guess is that PA voters will be mad about the economy even if a recovery is beginning to take hold in, say, Manhatten.  Voters will want to send a message to somebody and Specter is a twofer -- Republicans will be mad that he betrayed them and Dems will be mad that he isn't really one of them.  Specter is sort of like a Met fan who puts on a Phillies cap once they are ahead in the 8th inning with Ryan Howard on deck.  Voters will know where Sestak stands even if he might be a step to the left of them compared to the longtime imcumbent, I think Joe Sestak matches up very well against Specter.  


Nice baseball analogy! (0.00 / 0)
The very thought makes my skin crawl - just like Specter does!  

[ Parent ]
Primary his ass (4.00 / 4)
that's the team I'm on, for sure.

I'm scared Specter will win reelection like Lieberman did: the rethugs will willingly run a weak candidate knowing (and hoping) that most registered Repubs will vote for Specter anyway. And then it's win-win for the rethugs: either the Repub candidate wins (Ridge?), or if Specter wins he's just a DINO anyway and does all the rethuglicans' bidding, same as it is now.


Specter would win the general (4.00 / 1)
although with someone like Tom "Color-Coded Threat Level" Ridge it might be close.

The only way to get a real Democrat in that seat is to primary Arlen Specter. I'm convinced that Obama will stay out of the way if Specter keeps voting and talking like a Republican.


[ Parent ]
More and more, I want Sestak to run. (4.00 / 2)
Specter is very vulnerable. His age and lack of conviction will resonate.

Democrats want a Democrat.  


people seem to forget that (0.00 / 0)
in a Dem primary Sestak can simply pound Specter all day long with GWB.  

All of the analyses seem to assume an incumbent Blue Dog D senator versus a more progressive D rep.  GW may be gone, but he's far from forgotten and Arlen was with him every step of the way.  GW was the disease and guys like Sestak were the cure.  That equation hasn't changed.

If I ran Sestak's campaign, people would think Arlen's real name was George W. Specter.  


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